Ah, all the blogging that was intended to be done but not actually done.
Still, my March stuff:
~ “All of the band names ending with the same phoneme” is a brilliant theme for gigs and should be used more often: I was very sad to see that it no longer has the 70s flowery wallpaper, but the little room in The Hare & Hounds saw a fun little gig on the 5th – Teeth Of The Sea, Victories At Sea and Health And Efficien…sea. I liked all three, particularly last year’s Supersonic best-in-show-eers Teeth Of The Sea and their Morricone-ised psychedelic industrial (oh yes), and the new-to-me Victories At Sea who played something like that Echo And The Bunnymen-styled 80s-influenced indie-rock that was popular a few years ago, only turned up to 381 and with the knob snapped off. An aside, since we mentioned them: E&TB will be headlining the first day at Moseley Folk this year.
~ Feed me Seymour: Dilshad in Blackheath was alright, nothing amazing but completely acceptable. The Bartons Arms may still be my favourite pub but the food there didn’t seem as good this time around. In no way bad, of course, but not as wonderful as I’ve known it to be in the past. The Black Country Arms in Walsall is also a very good pub indeed, and does more usual pub food to a good standard for very reasonable prices. And, y’know, I like reasonable prices far more than I like unreasonable ones.
~ And The Band Played On: I went to see The Temptations, The Four Tops, Tavares and The Crystals at the NIA on the 22nd. Unsurprisingly, there were no surprises and the gig went exactly as you’d expect. In this case that is a very good thing and an emormous amount of fun. The three “The-” bands were all one-original-member versions, so Tavares won a moral victory through that. The Tempations won the “best old man dance moves” and the “band I liked the most in the first place” awards.
~ Sure, the craic was fierce: As part of The Fierce Festival I saw the Capsule gig at Vivid on the 30th (I arrived right at the end of Swllws, but it all sounded nice enough; Diamond Catalog progressed from “thumping undertow with random sounds over the top for decoration” to “using said sounds over the top to create a polyrhythmic contrast with said thumping overtow”, and it was fun; Grouper‘s “Violet Replacement” piece was a touch longer than what was actually in it seemed to justify, but nevertheless spectral and ghostly and lovely just to sit back into your chair and melt into. I may or may not have actually sat back in my chair, I don’t remember. I normally perch on the edge of chairs, ready for action) and The Dachsund UN (not-having-gone-to-Crufts consolation #2: adorable, although very difficult to actually see given the number of spectators there. Who can blame them, though? Also HOUNDS).
There were also five (count ’em) operas in March and another one since then, but I’m going to do a separate/proper post about them. You just see if I don’t.
For the time being, I’ll leave you with the new Destroyers (they’re at Moseley Folk, too) videeyo, just because:
As I said in the comments underneath (I know, YouTube commenting) – I don’t know why the kid leaves the room at the end. Going back into the main bar in The Lamp Tavern will lead to him having an even weirder conversation with Eddie…
Oh mercy, there’s one thing I don’t like about March but so very many good things during this March in particular. So very many. Lots of walking tours, lots of opera, lots of HOUNDS, lots of everything.
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 Saturday the 3rd – “Ministry Of Meh” (Belgrade Senior Youth Theatre) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – About the fact that the West Midlands is apparently the “obesity capital” of Europe. I did not know that (although these things are usually based on a survey of about four people).
Thursday the 1st till Saturday the 10th – “Lady Windermere’s Fan” (Blue Orange Arts) @ The Blue Orange Theatre, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Go Wilde in the
country Jewellery Quarter.
Saturday the 2nd – Mel C @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Your erstwhile Sporty Spice.
Friday the 2nd – “Time Gentlemen Please!” dance event @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Hip-hop and folk dancing all together: “Clog, Sword and Morris meet B-boying, Popping and Krump”. It may or may not be wrong of me to immediately want to say “En garde, I’ll let you try my Wu-Tang style” (and then make a load of slashing noises) when I think of sword dancing next to hip-hop.
Saturday the 3rd – Wagner’s “Tristan Und Isolde” (CBSO/CBSO Chorus) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – This will be the first opera that I’ll ever have seen live twice, fact fans.
Saturday the 3rd – Joe Cutler’s “Ping” (The Coull Quartet) @ The Warwick Arts Centre, near Coventry – Music for quartet and four table tennis players. No, really.
Monday the 5th – Teeth Of The Sea @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham –
The psychedelic industrialistas who were, according to me and various others, the best band of Supersonic last year.
Tuesday the 6th till Saturday the 10th – Welsh National Opera mini season @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – Continuing what has turned out to be a very operatic month indeed (see also the 3rd and 21st), here you have La Traviata on the 6th and 9th, Beatrice And Benedict on the 7th, and The Marriage Of Figaro on the 8th and 10th.
Tuesday the 6th till Saturday the 10th – “The Diary Of Anne Frank” (Touring Consortium Theatre Company) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – I can’t pretend that the idea of a big-stage version of Anne Frank in a big-stage theatre that normally has musicals and glossy “shows” strikes me as an enormously good idea, but you never know. There is potential for it to be interesting.
Wednesday the 7th till Saturday the 10th – “The Glass Menagerie” (Dudley Little Theatre) @ Netherton Arts Centre, Netherton – Which of the Williams’ is the best at Tennis? Why, Tennessee Williams, of course (arf).
Wednesday the 7th – Chris Wood @ The Red Lion, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Awake, arise, you drousy sleepers.
Thursday the 9th and Friday the 10th – “Mummy Mafia” (First Floor Theatre) @ The Drum, Newtown, Birmingham – In which the posh mothers don’t like the ordinary ones. It’s mommy mafia round here, we’ll have you know.
Thursday the 8th – Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Blimey, that is a soul-funkin’ lot of days and nights.
Friday the 9th till Saturday the 17th – St Padraig’s Day Festival @ various places in Digbeth, Birmingham – With the parade itself on (helpfully) the 17th. (EDIT: And by ’17th’ I mean ’11th’, obviously).
Friday the 9th – Fairport Convention @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – A Fairport gig, a Fairport gig, the first one of the year (Disclaimer: it’s probably not really their first gig of the year).
Friday the 9th – The Presidents Of The United States Of America @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Your first peach-related band of the month.
Saturday the 10th – The Stranglers @ The Academy, Birmingham – Your second peach-related band of the month.
Saturday the 10th – “Bite Size” (various theatre companies) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (studio), near Coventry – Lots of short plays, throughout the days. Well, it’s only one day, but that didn’t rhyme.
Sunday the 11th – Cannibal Corpse @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Those sensitive purveyors of songs about hammer-smashed faces and suchlike.
Monday the 12th – Mark Lanegan @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – You do have to wonder what he actually did to those poor trees.
Tuesday the 13th – Joan Baez @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The night they drove ol’ Brummie down.
Tuesday the 13th – “The Ethics Of Progress” (Unlimited Theatre) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (studio), near Coventry – Quantum for the perplexed. Although that was by somebody else.
Wednesday the 14th till Sunday the 18th – the Flatpack Film Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – The vaunted, feted, celebrated annual festival of films and film-related doings, courtesy of those good folks at 7 Inch Cinema. The line-up abounds with huge amounts of stuff, not least Laurel & Hardy in a church, films on a boat, biking, cinematic remixes, the best film ever made, digital projectors, psychedelic music, Yam-yam-ery, magnets and magic lanterns, and oh so much more.
Wednesday the 14th – The Three Degrees @ The Jam House, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – (Insert stock grumble about The Jam House here).
Thursday the 15th till Saturday the 1st of April – Still Walking Festival @ various routes around Birmingham – A festival of walks (in the sense of “guided tours around places”, not in the sense of “keep fit”. Although it no doubt will help with that if you go on enough of them).
Thursday the 15th – Chris Addison @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Although I don’t know what he’s doing here, given that they were meant to be filming a new series of “The Thick Of It” aroundabout now (and, much as I hate to say it, that’s altogether more important).
Friday the 16th – “Undefeated” boxing bill (Coldwell Boxing) @ The New Bingley Hall, Hockley, Birmingham – Headlined by a local derby between Jamie Ball and Nasser Al Harbi for the English light-middleweight title, which sounds suspiciously like a proper fight.
Friday the 16th – The Spaghetti Western Orchestra @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Doing Morricone and such. (Edit: just realised that this is part of the Flatpack Festival, as above).
Saturday the 17th – The Dubliners @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Every year they play at Brum town hall for St Padraig’s day, every year I think “surely that’ll be the best gig ever”, and every year I fail to get around to getting a ticket before it sells out.
Wednesday the 21st till Saturday the 31st – Jonathon Dove’s “Life Is A Dream” (Birmingham Opera Company) @ The Argyle Works, Bordesley Green (or is this still Digbeth?), Birmingham – Right, seriously now: even though there’s Flatpack and Crufts and everything else this month, this is the big one for March (and quite possibly all of 2012). And that’s no insult to any of the other lovely things going on. This is a new opera based in Calderon that has been specifically written (by Jonathon Dove, libretto by Alasdair Middleton) for the Birmingham Opera Company, whose performances place you in the midst of an immersive world rather than have you sit there looking at a stage. Go go go go go to this, you will not regret it.
Friday the 23rd till Friday the 30th – “Irminsul: You Are Lost” @ Perrott’s Folly, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A collaborative art project (full list of artistes at that link), and also a good excuse to go up Perrott’s Folly, which you don’t get absolutely every day (although there have been a few things there before).
Friday the 23rd – Syleena Johnson @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Tonight, she’s gonna let go. (EDIT: Note well, if it’s important to you for transport and such – it’s a club-night type of gig and Syleena will be on later in the night).
Friday the 23rd – Boxing (Frank Warren Promotions/First Team Promotions) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Headlined by Enzo Maccarinelli vs Shane McPhilbin for the British cruiserweight belt.
Friday the 23rd – Dave Swarbrick @ The Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton – The usual “any given month must feature at least one of the Watersons/Carthys” rule seems to be having a rare break, so have someone affiliated with them instead (see also the 7th).
Saturday the 24th – Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA) @ The NIA, Birmingham – No longer featuring Nate Marquardt. Let’s hope someone else does the Gouveia finishing sequence instead.
Wednesday the 28th – “I, Bertolt Brecht” (Fuschia Films & Media) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – A documentary play about the fella, based on experiences with his own theatre company.
Thursday the 29th till the 8th of April – Fierce Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – The annual art/performance art festival, and another one with countless things of interest: here we have one-to-one book readings (intense), guided tours of Berlin in Birmingham, HOUNDS, Viking funerals of your personal messages, and going off into the unknown under a blindfold.
Thursday the 29th – The Osmonds @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Apparently their last ever UK tour. Cra-zy Hor-ses WAAAAAAA~! WAAAAAAA~!
Thursday the 29th – “Coffin Up” (Village Idiots Mask Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – What happens when a funeral director can’t get enough business by ordinary means.
Friday the 30th – Grouper @ Vivid, Digbeth, Birmingham – That would be the American ambient lady Grouper, not the local covers band who have (for some reason) decided to use the same name.
Friday the 30th – The Selecter @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Just a simple show, on their radio. Although this is a gig, at The Robin.
Friday the 30th – The Destroyers @ The Prince Of Wales, Moseley, Birmingham – The new album is out!
Saturday the 31st till Saturday the 7th of April – “The Pillowman” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Martin McDonagh’s tale of authoritarian interrogation. “You wrote that so it was you what done it.”
Saturday the 31st – Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” (Heart Of England Singers) @ Shirley Methodist Church, Shirley, Birmingham – O Fortuna, Velut Luna, and on you go.
Yup, it was three-and-a-half months ago (21/10/11 – 23/10/11). Last year, in fact. This post was too close to being finished to discard, though, and too far away from being finished to tempt me to actually finish it. Ah well. Let’s get it over with now, shall we?
So then, although it is fair to say that Supersonic didn’t strike me as quite as enticing this time around and that Mizosely Folk was the one that triggered most of my 2011 being-excited-about-a-festival pheromones, it’s still a hell of a thing for which we should all be thankful.
I didn’t sleep too tough the previous night, though, and that inevitably has its effect. I got there on the Friday to find that the festival has expanded sideways: out of The Custard Factory (I always wondered what would happen when Supersonic outgrew it), over the Mighty River Rea (see it and marvel at God’s majesty expressed in nature), and onto Floodgate street (and something called ‘Boxxed’ – another warehousey stage). I initially found it a bit difficult to orient myself (what with my tiredness, my stupidity and someone else’s clever decision to draw the map in the programme with South at the top. The second-named was probably the biggest factor, of course), but one soon gets the gist. It was a shame to see the drained-pond stage gone, since that was one of the things that I most strongly associated with the whole affair, but the new layout had it’s advantages – a Purity bar at every stage (ding, dong, the Factory Club is dead) and a sensible barrier placement/use of two-out-of-three doors in Space 2 to minimise cold drafts (a problem envisaged beforehand).
Speaking of climate, it was unseasonably warm for the end of October all weekend. That’s two years running that the most obvious outcome has failed to happen, weather-wise. Rejoice ye not, though, if it carries on taking place in Autumn then eventually the other precipitatory boot will drop and we’ll all get pneumonia.
It was Space 2 all evening for me, anyway. A.P.A.T.T. were on first, and they had a go at everything – klezmer, doom (cor blimey, the big loud doom finale didn’t half give Space 2’s powerful PA system an early blow-out), Elton-John-ish 70s pop, you name it. All whilst wearing all-white costumes. The sad problem is that once you’ve first thought ‘wacky’ it’s very hard to get ‘wacky’ out of your head, and there is little more poisonous. I did like some of the music though.
The tiredness was really upon me by this point, but Part Chimp were on next. It’s probably not how they’re usually described, but I actually found them very relaxing – riffology that I could simply melt into, in my nearly-asleep-on-the-feet state. This was all very nice.
I left then. I would’ve loved to see Mike Watt, but I really was too tired. Leaving at this point had the bonus of me not needing to get a taxi all weekend, though, which cut the cost of the thing enormously.
I slept. I returned on Saturday.
Things began with mostly-electronics duo Berg Sans Nipple, at the Boxxxed stage. Apparently electronics and water can mix nicely, given that they started off sounding like the bottom of a lovely placid lake (albeit one with depth charges of bass killing unsuspecting fishies every now and again). They surfaced from the depths with live drums and a more rhythmic/grooving feel, actually playing (live, I mean, as opposed to replaying a sample of) the Amen Break at one point. I love it when a band does that. It’s like pop repeating on itself after already auto-cannibalising. Enjoyable stuff, anyway.
I crossed The Bridge Over The River Rea (tremble as its raw power threatens to tear apart the culvert so it relentlessly hurtles down) and headed to The Old Library for banjista Nathan Bell. A one-man-band (bar one song), with foot-operated percussion and (at times) little bells dangling from the neck of his banjo. His was an excellent mix of the bluegrassy trad on some songs and the loopy wig-out on others, with a big Morricone-on-crack monstah finale. I must hear more of this Nate Bell character.
Back to Boxxxxed I toddled, in time for what turned out to be the best set of the entire festival. Teeth Of The Sea played what I suppose I could only describe as ‘huge-sounding psychedelic industrial’, with nice little oddments like tribal drumming and trumpet (I was reminded of Morricone again, funnily enough. Maybe if Morricone had ever scored a sci-fi film) overlaid. They had a really dynamic sound, even though most of the set was all at high volume – there was a real feeling of movement within the music. Capable of hitting as hard as anyone else when doing a hard-hitting bit but also flinging you into space when needs be, Teeth Of The Sea won Supersonic 2011.
I headed to Space 2 and watched a little bit of Bardo Pond, but they just seemed to be pulling some entirely stock’n’standard shoegaze moves and my mind found itself drifting towards the thought of obtaining food.
I popped into The Custard Factory’s new Bay Leaf restaurant, and found it to have a slightly more upmarket/young-funky-fresh approach than Digbeth’s longstanding stalwart Manzils. It’s good to have both kinds around, I think. The Beef Aloo Bhuna that I had was enjoyable. Tagore quotes on the wall are nice, charging for poppadoms with a meal is not nice.
Next up was a great bit of crowd participationerationfrom Lucky Dragons, set up in front of the stage in Boxxxxxed. They began with a bit of ethereal ambient bloopery before starting to manipulate a brace of plastic sheets underneath some sort of light-sensitive-sensor which triggered responses in the sounds. They then encouraged people in the audience to have a go themselves, and that was how the rest of the set passed. It was lovely – unsurprisingly, the first few folk to have a stab started cautiously, but before too long people were trying to work out different ways of moving/bending/folding the sheets, putting objects on top on top of them etc. I didn’t participate myself but was it was lovely to watch the happy looks on people’s faces. An altogether joyful thing to see.
Pharaoh Overlord were next, doing The Stooges (even down to singer sounding bit like Iggy) covering Neu!. This, as such a description would suggest, was thoroughly Rocking. There’s not a lot more to describe about them beyond that, but that much Rocking equals that much Fun.
I ended up leaving them before they’d finished to go and see Electric Wizard (Space 2), and upon entering I was pleased to see a balloon being bounced around the crowd like Slava’s Snowshow. I’ve had a strange history with The Wizard – I saw ‘em a couple of times aroundabout a decade ago, but since then I’ve lost touch with them and their doings in spite of how much I adore their “Dopethrone” album (and in spite of how much I was into their offshoot band Ramesses for a while there. Although, thinking about it, I’ve drifted away from Ramesses too nowayears). They were OK enough here, but not quite hitting it – neither the sonic weight of their heavy side or the cheeky grin of their horror-film-sample-using side really struck through. They have plenty of riffs that it’s near-impossible not to nod to, but they didn’t quite put it all together like they did when I were a lad and this were all just fields.
That was it for the Saturday, then. Sunday saw me Back Once Again Like A Renegade Master, and first-of-all ensconcing myself in a seat in the Theatre Space. I am fond of both seats and the Theatre Space, because with these things you get to sit down. More importantly than that, though, I was very eager to see the tuba-doom (“doompah”, if you will) duo Ore. This was amazing – doom metal played on tubas, an inspired choice given that the tuba (as an instrument) provides not only the deep’n’low notes but also the appearance-of-a-massive-physical-struggle that you need to make this sort of thing seem convincing. It was only afterwards that I sussed out whyfore the name, too: ore, the essence of metal, in an unfamiliar form but left pure and stripped of artifice. “Ahar-har-har, that’s actually genuinely clever” I thought. Magnificent, anyway. I would like to see the two of them in collaboration with a didgeridoo player (because dronez) and a sousaphonist (because the sousaphone is the greatest instrument yet created).
Pekko Kappi, over at Space 2, didn’t quite connect with me and I do think that’s a shame. I approved of his playing the jouhikko (a traditional Finnish lyre), I approve of the way he played it (gleefully bowing away in the manner of an eight year old with a junior hacksaw), and I approved of his lyrics (settings of Finnish folk tales that sounded like narrations of Hell Brueghel paintings), but something just didn’t seem to work. I expect I’ll absolutely adore him the next time I encounter him.
Upon wandering past I became aware that Alexander Tucker was playing amongst the Connie Prantera exhibit in Zelig, unadvertised bar a few posters that were more-or-less immediately outside it. I went in immediately upon noticing them, and turned out to be in time for last 2 minutes. I heard some quiet vocals over drones, just enough to wonder and wish that I’d seen how he got up to that point.
Following that, it seemed like an as good a moment as any to exit and show my face in The White Swan and The Anchor. Just to be sociable, likesay.
I returned to see Selfless and their homage to old crusty grind. It’s exactly the same as what they used to play in the olden days when the world was black and white (I’m talking about photocopied record covers, not films), made great fun through ferocity and general funtime exuberance. As any local will tell you, Dunc has the greatest stage banter (“Cor see many books in ‘ere” he wisely noted of The Old Library).
Back to Boxxxxxxed, then, for Drum Eyes. Imagine everything in the world all going on at once (mostly violin, heavy bass and bleepy computer noises, but everything nevertheless), albeit in a strangely tuneful way. There you have your Drum Eyes. This was (nay, is) an extremely good thing, if difficult to describe.
I returned (slightly dazed) to Space 2 and caught the end of Barn Owl, who was doing a shrieky guitar drone. It was another one of those where I couldn’t get much from it and probably needed to have seen what led up to that point.
I followed this with a chicken curry from the Japanese food stall. It was quite nice (although £5 is obviously dearer than anything that comes in a tray really should be, irrespective of quality). This fortified me sufficiently to tramp back over to Boxxxxxxxed, for Iconaclass, which is your man from Dälek’s more traditionally styled hip-hop act. I initially enjoyed a bit of heavy-bass boom-bap, but left when we hit a turntablism section that looked like it wouldn’t ever end (come on now, it’s no morally superior to a guitar solo). Tony Conrad was on in Space 2, and I know he’s very influential and all the rest of it but I nevertheless found myself faced with a distorted violin solo that looked like it wouldn’t ever end and so began to wonder if we’d hit that point in the weekend. Suspicions were confirmed when I moved on to the Old Library and found Cut Hands doing sampled drum solo that looked like it wouldn’t ever end.
I returned to watch a bit more Conrad (the distorted violin solo had not, in fact, ended) before just generally faffing around for a bit. Somehow I always manage to spend some time just generally faffing around at events like this (and, indeed, when it comes to life in general). I eventually returned to Boxxxxxxxxed for Silver Apples, electronic music legend and such. The last time I saw him saw an interesting atmospheric dissonance in the audience – there seemed to be an equal mix of people genuflecting in reverence/awe and people openly laughing at him. This time around your man was suffering from equipment malfunctions a-plenty. I must admit I chuckled to myself when the CD that he was playing for his beats skipped. I got enjoyment from it all in comical way, but if you go in for any solemn temple of art nonsense then this would probably have been horrific. “I Don’t Know” was at least genuinely eerie.
I crossed the Rea again (and by this point I was having to suppress the urge to stop and sing “Old Man River” from the bridge) and headed to Space 2 for Envy. They played post-rock biiiiig (“biiiiig” is a noun, you know) with all those usual sorts of dynamics, but added the chiming guitar of that style of melodic rock stuff that they sometimes describe as post-hardcore (for some reason). Does that make them post-post? Alright-ish, anyway.
A big ending for my weekend was necessary, and so I finished things off with Drunk In Hell in The Old Library. Noise-rock, but times a million billion. They just sort of go “BRRROOOOOAAARGGGGHHHH” with massive riffs and menacing intent, and it’s ace. It’s as though the movement of continents started accelerating. I’ve often thought (by which I mean I’ve just thought for the first time) that there’s only one band at a time in a country who can harness such a degree of raw elemental oomph – Mistress used to be the British representatives, but now it’s Drunk In Hell.
After that, that was me lot. I had fun.
(Checky checky checky The Collective Memory for a whole metric bagful more posts and articles about Supersonic 2011).
Ah, nuts. I got a thought along the lines of “Ooh ooh ooh maybe I should start writing about things again”, got around to partially writing a post, and then left it a fortnight. I would call myself incorrigible, but realistically this is more of a lack of ever having been corriged in the first place.
Battles are a band I first came across at the 2005 Supersonic Festival, and Mary Mother O’Mercy they were super-duper. In the usual fashion, they were already well-known amongst those who know well and I’d read beforehand that they featured members of a whole pile of bands that I (mostly) didn’t know, but they were completely new to me and I really wasn’t expecting the fantastic and unconventional groove-a-thon that I heard on the day. Since then, I’d seen them another couple of times and even got some uncustomary rewards from the oft-distasteful chore of listening to recorded music – their “Mirrored” album from 2007 will ding your hum. When it turned out that they were due to play at The Institute on the 27th (thanks to Capsule), I was more than happy to have a bit of that.
Upon entering (via The Anchor, for an important pint on the way), I encountered some young person’s 4/4 discotheque music assayed by Young Montana, a fella-me-lad with hair far too indie-floppy to do that sort of thing convincingly. It got more interesting, though, as he added an assortment of odd little sounds around the edges of it all – not only the customary depth charge bass, but also steel drums, a sample of The Beach Boys playing “God Only Knows” in a hall of mirrors, and all sorts of gubbins. I liked him. I think he would’ve been better in a shorter burst (he went on for quite a while), but I liked him.
Battles were outstanding. They’re not the easiest to describe to someone who doesn’t know them – oddball mostly-instrumental rock, I suppose, with plenty of funny rhythms and timing but nevertheless always very catchy and groovy. Even someone who actively dislikes them (fools I tells ya) would have to admire their set-up – a particular mic to hit with a drumstick to make those wooden-y sort of sounds! The highest cymbal stand in the world! A man playing two keyboards at once, positioned at 45 degree downward angles! This is all just superb stuff.
It was all new stuff, unless I’m forgetting anything, but I suppose that makes sense given that the singer-bloke from the previous album had left them. The guest vocals from the newer one were replayed as recordings, although in two cases the starring turns had recorded a video to be played on big screens behind the band. Mattias Aguayo‘s “Ice Cream” made the most of this, using a pause-and-stutter effect on the video to create a cool new breakdown in the middle of the song. Gary Numan, on the other hand, reminded me (between the particular tone of his nasal vocals on his track “Heavy machines” and the heavy eyeliner and generally-looking-like-grim-death in this video) of no-one so much as Ozzy. Perhaps this was deliberate and in honour of Home Of Metal.
The final one-two was the best. “Futura” ended the main set and was altogether more forceful than on record, before the sole encore of “Sundome” proved to be enormously grooving. It really got me going, and I’m someone who rarely goes at all nowadays.
Early finish, too! Bosting.
Since then there’s been Grandad Tom’s funeral, the big strike day (involving picketing in Walsall and then the big demo in Birmingham), and a trip to That London for an operation. I may end up writing something about the last-named. Probably not, though.
There’s some of B-Town’s finest annual stuff this month, alongside a whole load more.
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 Saturday the 5th – Eastern Electronic Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Audio and visual electronics from (or connected with) further East than even Lowestoft.
Tuesday the 1st till Saturday the 19th (but not Sundays or Mondays) – “The Cleansing Of Constance Brown” @ A.E. Harris Building, The Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – I saw this a few years ago and it was A-to-the-mazing. Vignettes of power change and elide into one another in a specially built corridor. It is astonishing in the literal sense (you will actually find yourself astonished). Really now – if I did a ‘Recommendation Of The Month’ then this would be it. Also: you might want to buy your tickets in advance.
Tuesday the 1st and Wednesday the 2nd – “The Pool Game” (Geiger Counter Theatre) @ The MAC (theatre), Edgbaston, Birmingham – A game of pool inspired by Kafka’s “The Trial”.
Thursday the 3rd till Saturday the 12th – “Notes To A Future Self” (Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company) @ The MAC (theatre), Edgbaston, Birmingham – The daughter of a free-wandering new ager has to come to terms with both normal life and her impending death. This is also on at The Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton on the 28th.
Thursday the 3rd – “Portrait Of An Actress As…” (Rogueplay Theatre) @ The Station, Sutton Coldfield – Comic sketches about struggling to make it in theatre. “Shamelessly bitchy”, it says. Also at The Old Joint Stock Theatre on the 4th and The Lamp Tavern (I imagine that they mean the one in Digbeth rather than the one in Dudley, although I don’t know) on the 12th.
Saturday the 5th – Fairport Convention @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – All the fun of the Fairport.
Saturday the 5th – “The Sleeping Princess” (Krazy Kat Theatre) @ The Library Theatre, Birmingham – Puppets! Dragon puppets!
Saturday the 5th – Birmingham Poetry Ultras @ The Old Moseley Arms, Balsall Heath, Birmingham – Discussions of Seamus Heaney, for World Book Night. There’s also some WBN business at Brum Central Library, but I can’t find a link outside of this here CIB one.
Sunday the 6th – 7 Inch Cinema’s pre-Flatpack Festival warm-up do @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – With DJs and short fillums and suchlike.
Monday the 7th – Elaine Paige @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The sound of my childhood. To some extent.
Tuesday the 8th till Saturday the 12th – “Black Watch (National Theatre Of Scotland) @ Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), Coventry – Created from interviews with Royal Highlanders who served in Iraq.
Wednesday the 9th – Science Museum Live @ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – London Science museum, that is. Birmingham’s own science museum was of course taken over by the scalpers, turned into ‘Think Tank’ and now charges to get in, but let’s leave that (I get too angry). I don’t know what a science museum’s stage show would entail, but – whatever it is – this will be it.
Thursday the 10th till Sunday the 13th – Crufts @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Hounds, everyone’s fond of how-unds…
Thursday the 10th – Iron & Wine @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Beards and whispering.
Friday the 11th till Thurday the 17th – Birmingham St Patrick’s Day celebrations @ across Birmingham (mostly Digbeth) – The parade, this year on the 13th, has always been hailed as the biggest after those of New York and Dublin. Apparently Manchester is gunning for a big one this year, though, and we all know self-aggrandisement outweighs actual size.
Friday the 11th – Thomas Adès “In Seven Days” and Steve Reich’s “Music For 18 Musicians” (London Sinfionetta) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – On a related note, I recently read Alex Ross’ “The Rest Is Noise” and would very much recommend it.
Saturday the 12th – Alabama 3 @ The Institute (Library room), Digbeth, Birmingham – Woke up this morning but don’t run for the priest.
Saturday the 12th – Odyssey @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – The actual, real Odyssey, far as I can tell. Going back to their roots (yeah).
Monday the 14th and Wednesday the 23rd – Capsule’s tree-related gigs @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – The theme appears to be somewhat arboreal: you’ve got Woods on the 14th and Arbouretum (sic) on the 23rd.
Monday the 14th – “The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Blackeyed Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Keep your distance, Brecht.
Tuesday the 15th till Saturday the 19th – “George’s Marvellous Medicine” (Birmingham Stage Company) @ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Roald Dahl seems to be everywhere just lately. Not that I’m complaining, I think he’s great.
Tuesday the 15th till Saturday the 19th – “And The Horse You Rode In On” (Told By An Idiot) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Studio), Coventry – A dark comedy with rabbits trying to stop aliens destroying the world and a look at how difficult it is to stop people going too far in support of their beliefs.
Tuesday the 15th – Primal Scream @ The Academy, Birmingham – Playing “Screamadelica” all the way through. They want to be free etc etc etc.
Wednesday the 16th till Saturday the 20th – “And The Rain Falls Down” (Fevered Sleep) @ The MAC (theatre), Edgbaston, Birmingham – This month’s one that I wish I was younger for: 3-4 year olds can splishy-sploshy in the rain.
Wednesday the 16th – Ben E. King @ The Jam House, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – The real Ben E. King (I thought it was a tribute at first), how about that. Gary U.S. Bonds will be there too.
Thursday the 17th – The Dubliners @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Seeing The Dubliners on Padraig’s day would surely be the greatest thing. It’s already sold out, though.
Friday the 18th – Chali 2na @ The Institute (Library room), Digbeth, Birmingham – The rapper who used to be in Jurassic 5. You know, those park-keepers.
Saturday the 19th till Saturday the 26th – “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Well, you need a bit of balance after Crufts. Heh.
Saturday the 19th and onwards – the “Birmingham Mahler Cycle” continues @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – There’s the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome doing the 1st Symphony on the 19th, then the London Symphony Orchestra doing the 7th on the 25th and the CBSO doing the 6th on the 29th.
Saturday the 19th – The Stranglers @ The Academy, Birmingham – For the last time, I don’t know what happened to your bleedin’ heroes.
Tuesday the 22nd till Sunday the 27th – Flatpack Film Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Motion pictures galore! There’s a billion squillions things, including but not limited to stuff for young’ins, a barn as a conduit for God, a man in a cat, a tire going mental, Pram, Mordant Music, The Kinshasha Symphony Orchestra and a crazy amount more.
Tuesday the 22nd till Sunday the 27th – Fierce Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Once a festival/series with a whole tonne of arts and performance doings, Fierce now (seems to be) a smaller selection. If you go to that page you’ll need to click the “book tickets” links to see actual descriptions of the performances (this wasn’t initially obvious to me).
Tuesday the 22nd – Elbow @ The NIA, Birmingham – The arm-bone is connected the (beat) elbow, the elbow is connected to the (beat) other arm-bone etc. etc. etc.
Tuesday the 22nd – Seefeel @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – A band that many would consider to be amongst the Don Dadda elite of that post-rock sort of stuff that you all liked a few years ago.
Wednesday the 23rd till Saturday the 26th – “Maskerade” (Crescent Theatre Youth Seniors) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Terry Pratchett’s “Phantom Of The Opera” themed novel, only done as a play. Obviously.
Saturday the 26th – “Home Of Metal” open day @ The Public, West Bromwich – Incorporating a music photography workshop from the super-duper Steve Gerrard.
Saturday the 26th – Eska @ The Drum, Newtown, Birmingham – Anglo-Zimbabwean jazz-folk. Please don’t ask me to spell her surname.
Sunday the 27th – Manowar @ The Academy, Birmingham – Well, erm… yeah.
Monday the 28th till Saturday the 2nd of April – “Dinnerladies: Second Helpings” (damned if I can tell the company) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – Obviously the telly series was the top few best things ever. I’ve no idea abut this, but it does star the original Tony.
Monday the 28th – The Adverts @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – After Googling just now, I know for the first time in my life who Gary Gilmore is.
Monday the 28th – Cee Lo Green @ The Academy, Birmingham – Should it be “Cee Lo” or “Cee-Lo”? I’m damned if I-kno.
Thursday the 31st – Chas And Dave @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Their last ever tour ever, apparently.
Now, I had thought that Capsule having their 2010 Supersonic festival in Oc-bleedin’-tober was something akin to those horrible mascot people waving their jackplug connections at the sky and daring the weather to do its worst, but the prophecy turned out to be largely unfulfilled. There was some rain and it was bloody cold towards the end there, but it could easily have been (approximately) a million billion times more rainy and cold. I do genuinely think a bullet (a precipitatory, shivery bullet) was dodged. The timing actually turned out to be fortuitous in the end – most of us, I think, needed cheering up after the governmental scorched-earth-policy-antics of a few days prior.
Things began to begin on Friday the 22nd: after a quiet getting-my-head-together-pint in The Lamp Tavern (I guessed that all the pubs nearer to the festival site would be stupidly busy. For a very reasonable fee I can plan your pub strategy, too. Hit me up, yo), the time came to approach the Custard Factory and the non-custard-related delights therein. Upon getting through the big ol’ queue and obtaining my stylish “I’ve paid guvnor, look” wristband, I headed straight up to The Old Library stage and immediately fell in love with a lot of what I saw. Great structural improvement number one: In the last few years the third/smallest band stage was in the Medicine Bar/Factory Club, and I’d basically given up on it and accepted that it was a part of the festival I couldn’t get into due to there already being at least fifty-seven-squillion people squashed in there at any given time. The Old Library was still overloaded to the point of one-in/one-out a few times, but it’s far closer to being an appropriate size than the Med Bar was. Great structural improvement number two: There were extra recycling bins scattered around the place. The lack of bin-age is something I’ve complained about after every Supersonic I’ve ever been to, so I was pleased to see this. Great structural improvement number three: A real bar! Apparently the Factory Club-controlled bars elsewhere on site were charging £4.50 per pint of your basic stuff, but here it was £3 for a pint of either Hogans cider, Veltins lager or your Purity ales. Awesome. My one minor complaint (and this wouldn’t be a Russ L blog post without one) simply regards the placing of the thing in the busy Old Library – there were a few times over the weekend when Johnny Punter couldn’t get in to get a drink. This is surely not ideal. I don’t have any particularly good idea about where it could go instead, but there must be somewhere.
The first turn of the weekend, then, were Necro Deathmort. I almost didn’t want to see them – it really would have been heartbreaking if a band with a name as good as “Necro Deathmort” turned out to be rubbish. I was very happy to find that they were really good. Drone melting into doom melting into breakbeats, suggesting stoned indolence building up to weed psychosis. I wish I’d stayed for all of their set, now, but I left halfway through to see some of Gum Takes Tooth on the outside stage. They did a very self-consciously silly digital grind thing, which was reasonably fun. They also did it with carrier bags over their heads, something that I was always told was very dangerous.
I then watched a bit of Demons back in the Old Library, and I recall that I didn’t find them very interesting. I genuinely remember nothing else about them apart from that fact. There’s always one, isn’t there?
The annoyance that high expectations can cause was demonstrated after this, out on the outside stage. Being a grindcore offshoot of Mistress/Nathrakh, I expected Fukpig to have a bit more oomph and be a bit funnier to watch than they actually were. They were every bit as fast and furious as the Read Money Round of yore and they did sprinkle a few odd-sounding guitar leads over the top to vary things up a touch, but they weren’t anywhere near as good as the Strawpig of my imagination.
That was it for my Friday. I would have liked to have seen Napalm Death and PCM (the latter being something of a Supersonic tradition), but I didn’t consider it the end of the world to miss either of them. Meanwhile, if I’d had to get a taxi home on all three nights I would probably have had to have sold some bodily organs to raise the money. And nobody is going to be stupid enough to buy any of my crappy organs. I don’t think that plan would have worked.
Saturday didn’t have the most auspicious of starts. I wanted to go and see the Pigeon thingy, but after wandering back and forth on Floodgate street I couldn’t find any obvious way in to the Rea Garden that was open at about twenty to four (The Rea Garden is what was once The Secret Garden, isn’t it? If not then that would explain a lot, I suppose). I was forced to console myself for the lack of feathery friends by popping into The Anchor for a pint of Cheddar Valley (Friday was ale, Saturday and Sunday were cider). After getting into the CustarFact I flitted between stages but couldn’t find much to love in any of the bits I saw of the first few bands on – A Wild Horse’s Side Parting or whatever they think they’re called (dull soundscapes with a-rhythmic drumming sprinkled over the top), Blue Sabbath Black Fiji (chaos to no particular end), and Eagle Twin (just your typical doom/stoner).
Things picked up more than just a little bit with Lichens in The Old Library and possibly the best combination of music and backing visuals that I’ve ever seen. The music started as an initially shrieky one-note drone, before building into a far lusher texture. The backing projections saw a series of expanding concentric circles, which got more messy and less circular as the set went on. When they first began to take irregular shapes it gave an impression of height/depth, like a hill on some psychedelic ordinance survey map; as they sped up and got more and more chaotic it felt like I was flying into the centre of them, reminding me of that flight scene in “2001”. I was dazed by the end of it all, and I mean that in a very good way.
I nipped over to Space 2 after that to have a look at industrial-doom herberts Gnaw, but I left after a bit. The vocalisings of Alan Dubin (your man from Khanate) may well sound like a smack addict being sick on a baby when heard on record, but they didn’t have as much impact here. Between a touch of disappointment about that and the fact that it I was still reeling from Lichens, this seemed like a good time to pop over to Manzil’s for my tea (lamb Madras and a cheese naan, if you’re int’rested. Nom nom nom).
I returned and spent a little while gently grooving to the gentle grooves of Dosh (nothing too exciting but nothing too likely to hamper digestive processes either, so that was good) on the outside stage before heading into the theatre space for the “Fear Of Music” talk: David Stubbs (Wire journo and author of a book on this subject, which I should very much like to read after this), Christian Jendreiko (German artiste) and Brian Duffy (anyone likely to be reading this is probably already aware of him) discussing why avante garde music doesn’t have quite the same position in popular culture that avante garde visual art does (cf: ten million squillions people going to The Tate Modern each year and so forth), as well as frequently digressing onto other things. This was extremely interesting, and I actually wish I’d taken notes. I even put my hand up to ask a question (this is unlike me), but with my customary lack of eloquence I completely fluffed it and ended up asking something entirely different to what I was thinking. My own fault, of course.
Fantastic as that was, it was a shame that I missed half of King Midas Sound whilst in there. The current guise of your man Kevin Martin from/of Techno Animal/The Bug etc, here bolstered by Roger Robinson and Kiki Hitomi on vocals and sounding like Massive Attack with all the dials pushing well into the red. This is clearly a wondrous thing. There was enough bass to make even the sturdy structure of Space 2 wobble a bit, while Kiki and Roger projected steely confidence in the face of the metaphorical walls closing in.
I had initially only popped up to The Old Library to get another pint of cider after that, but Tweak Bird’s Sabbath-y riffs over interesting rhythms proved both distracting and likeable enough for me to tarry awhile and nod a bit of head. Whilst there, I saw a man give a thumbs-up to one of the recycling bins after throwing something in it. I’m not joking, now – he stood in front of it with a big smile on his face, and gave it a thumbs-up sign. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.
It was back over to Space 2 soon enough, though, for one of our main events. Although I absolutely love and adore Godflesh (or a good chunk of their cannon, at the very least), I wasn’t really expecting ‘em to be all that much live. I don’t know why, but I just wasn’t, and as such their “solidly good on the night, actually” turned out really well for me. Concentrating on the older more industrial/less beat-styled stuff, “Like Rats” made for a huge opener but for a good while they were somewhat quieter than anyone might have liked. Happily that got better throughout the set and they were working up a goodly amount of oomph by the end there. I enjoyed ‘em, although I suppose in a distant way it was similar to the time I saw the Pistols a couple of years ago – there are riffs that by this point cause quasi-Pavlovian responses. Like, quite possibly, Rats.
One more and done, then: Melt Banana on the Outside Stage, beginning in their two-piece guise (a smaller version of Melt Banana should quite obviously be referred to as Melt Plantain) before growing an extra couple of heads. This was the fourth time I’ve seen them now and every time their high energy popgrind inspires the biggest of smiles. They’re just so… day-glo. Seeing them is like watching the Japanese dub of “The Teletubbies” after inhaling a massive amount of illuminous paint fumes. As ever, “Nine Short Songs” was the best bit and summed them up as whole – possibly the most effective distillation of pop and punk, delivering the idea and dispensing with the crapola. Yasuko, combining as she does some of the stereotypical Engrish nuttery with a somehow uncommonly dignified air (even when meow-ing “Happy Birthday To You”), is the coolest person on this planet.
Due to stupidity (to be more accurate: due to my own stupidity) I arrived slightly later than I intended to on Sunday, and so began by picking up the end of Bong’s set in Space 2. I thought I knew who they were but turned out to have got it wrong – it took me a few days to work out that Bongzilla were the band I was thinking of. Bong were good, though – a mixture of your doom-y drone and your Eastern (Ipswich, possibly) sitar-y drone, creating an enormous sound.
Efterklang-collaborating-sort Peter Broderick did a solo set in The Old Library next and it was fan-daby-dozie, varying between folksy and more compositional pieces and making great use of loop pedal. His last song saw him looping a mournful wail while he steamed into the audience (he was in and out of the crowd a few times) shaking percussion, and suggested the sound of Efterklang meeting Arthur Russell. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a better combination.
Thence to Space 2 for Voice Of The Seven Thunders, the new band of Ricky Tomlinson (by which I mean the fella who used to go as Voice Of The Seven Woods, and not that fella off the telly) and cohorts. Their doings are very definitely within the realms of prog-rock, with a heavy Middle Eastern influence – suggestive of hookah-smoke, rather than the dry ice that most bands hereabouts brought to mind. The songs had a nicely subtle build, too, changing in interesting ways over their course. If all of that sounds too serious for you, be aware that he also told a lovely joke about a slice of cheese between songs.
Food, next, obtained from the Italian stall. The meatballs and sauce were absolutely lovely, but the ciabatta tasted as though it had been left outside all day. Which is probably precisely what had happened, now that I think about it.
I hopped up to the Old Library then to have a look at Ruins, but so did a lot of other people. I bailed before they started (once we reached the point where there was no longer a single cubic inch of space not filled with human flesh) and eventually ended up in Space 2 in front of Mothlite and their 80s goth/synthpop, perhaps a bit like some of your earlier Nine Inch Nails stuff. Their songs weren’t in the slightest bit catchy or memorable, but I did appreciate the necklace of feathers that the singer was wearing – I assume that this was in honour of it being ornithological day at Supersonic (with Swans and Barn Owl playing), and I do have a certain respect for apposite accessorising.
Nissenenmondai. Nissenenenenmondai. Nissenenenenenenenenen&c. Maybe not quite as good as last year’s towering set, but still better than practically anything else in the world that you might choose to name. Their krautrock/prog-house/disco (yeah, really) ascended far above the outside stage and poked the eyes of God. They truly are an astonishingly good live band, and the first of the two on the Sunday that I’d describe as inspiring euphoric feelings.
I needed to reset my jaw to “non-dropped” position after that, and so I nipped out of the festival to The Anchor for a bit. I returned halfway through Factory Floor’s set on the outside stage, and got a “okay-ish” sort of vibe from them. I’m not convinced they justify all of the hype, though – standard electronic blibleblibleblibleblible with a “62 different ways to play the violin” demonstration over the top.
It may or may not have been at this point that I had one of the lovely samosas they were selling at the bar. This may or may not be important.
The Old Library was stupidly, stupidly busy again for Chrome Hoof (as well it might be), but this time I hung on and bore it in the name of Funkdiscokrautrockmetalmothershipmusic. It actually thinned out a fair bit as the set went on, but I was nevertheless somewhat put off. There is a possibility (although it is far from certain) that this is why this time seemed to have the least impact out of the four times I’ve seen them, but even at half strength they’re great. Funkdiscokrautrockmetalspaceshipmusic, as I said. Funkdiscokrautrockmetalspaceshipmusic with silver bacofoil costumes, even. I’m still aggrieved by otherwise sensible people pronouncing “hoof” to rhyme with “roof”, though.
I made sure I’d seen the “Ooh arr, let’s put Gary Bushell in a bubble” one and the “Towards zero, Bermondsey’s in equilibrium” one before bopsing over to Space 2 to make sure I saw at least a little bit of Zeni Geva (massively unfortunate timetable clashes here, having them on opposite Hoof and Hallo, although given the amount of fantastic stuff there was all weekend it’s amazing that this was the only big one for me). I didn’t get to hear very much, but it seemed pretty good while I was there – a real savage sound, just like you want from Zeni Geva.
I was really happy about the fact that Hallogallo 2010 (on the outside stage) were everything I wanted them to be. They’re Michael Rother of Neu!’s current band (if y’didn’t know), playing Neu! stuff amongst various other things, and I’m the sort of fella who thinks “Neu! 75” is as fine an album as ever you’ll hear. They had that advancing feel that you want/get from anything Neu!-related (I promise that’s the last time in this paragraph that I’m going to use that bandname that sounds like someone from the six counties enthusiastically saying “no”), but also a huge dollop of pip-pip-cheerio excitable energy, too. Combined with the general good vibes you get in a “hey we’re looking at a legend” situations, this was all really very uplifting – the second band of the day that I’d describe as euphoric. The motorik motored along, but not exclusively; they even sounded a little bit breakbeat-ish right at the end there.
Finally, at the end of this somewhat spectacular weekend, we had Swans. The purists may wish to look away now. My reactions to their set were no doubt influenced in no small way by the fact that during it I was tired (I think I did really well all weekend, but by this point it was leaning on me), I was very cold (as I said at the top – the weather was astonishingly good for the end of October, but by this point it genuinely was bitter) and Iantention was saying words at me (force of nature, nothing you can do about that), but… well they weren’t bad. There was a strong air of restrained force for long stretches, and very occasionally the sonic violence for which they are known burst forward and they captured that almost ritualistic feel I’ve been known to get from them on record. At other times, though, they didn’t have much impact. I do not find myself in agreement with most of the rapturous accounts I’ve read since then.
It matters not. This was definitely the best Supersonic yet, and that’s no small compliment. Joint-best-band-awards have to go to Lichens, Melt Banana, Nissenenmondai and Hallogalo (whilst Peter Broderick and King Midas Sound were very close behind them). If a similar quality of line-up could be replicated in future combined with a shift of the bar to somewhere more convenient and a return to the whole affair happening in July, I think I’d probably explode with happiness.
(Many other folks have written/photographed/filmed/drawn – check them out via the Collective Memory).
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 & 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.
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 – 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.
All of the usual staples of LOTTSADITWM (music, theatre, fighting sports, things calling themselves “festivals”) and a few little additional oddities too.
Thursday the 1st – “Precious Things” (My Little Theatre Company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Strange characters attend an exhibition of a nazi-sympathising artist in a play looking at ethics in art.
Friday the 3rd till Saturday the 5th – Moseley Folk Festival @ Moseley Park, Moseley, Birmingham – The fifth annual Moseley Folk Festival. The big headliner this time is Donovan, and there’ll also be chances to see Turin Brakes, Fyfe Dangerfield (see also the 25th), The Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain, The Unthanks, John Renbourne, The Destroyers and a whole tonne of others in an absolutely lovely setting. In spite of all that, I’ll still be asking for my money back if The Divine Comedy don’t play “My Lovely Horse”.
Saturday the 4th & Sunday the 5th – “Peppa Pig’s Party” @ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – I’ve never seen any of Peppa Pig’s programmes but I do think she’s so very very cute.
Saturday the 4th – “Opium: The Confessions Of Thomas De Quincy” (Skewed View) @ The Vaults, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham and then apparently later on at The Old Crown, Digbeth, Birmingham – Based, as the name would suggest, in Thomas De Quincey’s “Confessions Of An English Opium Eater”. The Vaults is a restaurant but I doubt that’ll be on the menu.
Sunday the 5th – The Rotary Club Country Music Festival @ Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A counterpoint to Moseley Folk, I suppose.
Sunday the 5th – Heart Of England Judo tournament @ The NIA, Birmingham – “Consider fully, act decisively” – Jigoro Kano.
Tuesday the 7th till Saturday the 11th – “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (Wolverhampton Youth Musical Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Thoroughness, that’s what you want in your modernity.
Wednesday the 8th – Modified Toy Orchestra @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – The circuit-bending gaffers will be premiering their new album, “Plastic Planet”. That was me just trying out this useage of “premier” as a verb. I don’t think I like it. I probably won’t do it again.
Friday the 10th until Sunday the 12th – Artsfest @ all over Birmingham – It’s that time of the year again. Details are customarily scarce, but the main stage in Centenary Square (apparently they’re fencing off a chunk of Broad Street too, to mitigate for the space lost to library-building works) will have the usual CBSO “Classical Fantasia” on Saturday night, and a pock’n’rop thing on Sunday headlined by The Twang.
Friday the 10th until Sunday the 12th – Birmingham Zine Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Fanzines have always been and will always be around, obviously, but they do quite recently seem to have become more a lot more fashionable in various circles. Still: hooray for DIY and boo to the insistence that all information must flow downwards from the massahs and hooray for zines.
Friday the 10th – Gorillaz @ The NIA, Birmingham – I still think that Murdoc from Gorillaz and Cain Dingle from “Emmerdale” are the same person. (EDIT: Postponed till the 17th of November, see comments).
Saturday the 11th till Saturday the 18th – “A Dolls House” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Ibsen and his dislike of 19th century sexism.
Saturday the 11th – “Muay Thai Champions Trophy” Muay Thai card (Fightsport Events @ The NIA, Birmingham – Including one of those eight man/one night tournaments that we all love so much.
Saturday the 11th – The Drifters @ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Saaaaturday night at the… erm, theatre…
Saturday the 11th – The Furious Five @ The Hare And Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Don’t… push… them,… ‘cos they’re… close… to… the… eeeeedge…
Tuesday the 14th until Sunday the 19th – The British Science Festival @ various places in Birmingham but mostly the universities – It’s poetry in motion/She turned her tender eyes to me/As deep as any ocean/As sweet as any harmony…
Thursday the 16th – Mahler’s 8th symphony (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The Birmingham Mahler Cycle (running till June) begins with “The Symphony Of A Thousand”.
Saturday the 18th – Fun Lovin’ Criminals @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Stick ‘em up, punk.
September the 18th – “The Magnificent Seven” boxing card (Frank Warren Promotions) @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – “The Seven Samurai” was a far better film, but never mind. It’s so-called due to there being no less than seven twelve-round fights on this card as well as more stuff too. In one of the more anticipated domestic fights of recent times, Matthew Macklin is scheduled to take on Darren Barker for the British and European (both at once, it’s like the olden days) middleweight titles. Assuming they all occur as planned, Nathan Cleverly then fights Karo Murat in a WBO world light-heavyweight title eliminator, Enzo Maccarinelli fights Alexander Frenkel for the European cruiserweight title, Ryan Rhodes faces Lukas Konecny for the European light-middleweight title, Derek Chisora takes on Sam Sexton for the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles, Kell Brook fights Michael Jennings for the British welterweight title, James DeGale faces Carl Dilks for the WBA International super-middleweight title, Frankie Gavin takes on Michael Kelly for the Irish light-welterweight title, and Don Broadhurst fights The Dreaded TBA for the English super-flyweight title. Not including at least one additional four-rounder on the bill, that’s potentially 104 consecutive rounds of boxing. Blimey. (EDIT: Barker is out. Bad hips apparently. Shame really, that would’ve been quite the fight…).
Sunday the 19th –The Pope @ Cofton Park, Rednal, Birmingham – As the old Belfast joke goes: “Yeah, but I’m a Catholic atheist…”
Sunday the 19th – The Digbeth O’Lympics @ various places in Digbeth, Birmingham -Including snail racing and cardboard-box sailing.
Wednesday the 22nd till Saturday the 25th – “Enron” (Headlong Theatre) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – I actually thought this was called “Enron – The Musical”. Unless that’s something different.
Wednesday the 22nd – Schostakovich’s 8th Symphony (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Banned for a bit, in the USSR. I find that difficult to believe, it’s so unlike Schostakovich…
Thursday the 23rd till Saturday the 25th – “Duck Variations” and “The Brothers” (Duck Brothers Productions) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – A double-bill of comedic plays, the first by David Mamet do you see do you see.
Thursday the 23rd – Wagner’s “Tristan Und Isolde” (The Philharmonia Orchestra) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The UK premier of this enormously well-regarded production, featuring backing visuals by Bill Viola.
Saturday the 25th – “BAMMA 4” mixed martial arts card (British Association of Mixed Martial Arts) @ The NIA, Birmingham – In which Tom Watson (Not The MP) will take on the bloke who did that Stamford Prison Experiment knock-off thing. There’ll be lots more fights too, including an interesting battle between two very good prospects when Eugene Fadiora faces Gunnar Nelson.
Saturday the 25th – Fyfe Dangerfield @ The (AHEM) Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – The building that has previously (in whole or in part) constituted The Barfly, The Sanctuary, The Institute, Digbeth Civic Hall and (apparently) a Methodist chapel is now re-opening as The HMV Institute, presumably because if you ask ten people off the street what they think about “branding” they’ll sincerely beseech you to add more company identities into the names of things for no obvious reason. Obviously I’ll be ignoring the “HMV” in this in the same way that most of us ignore the “O2” in The Academy (unpleasantly, though, I have recently heard a few people refer to The Academy as The O2. This is despicable and must cease immediately – you’re only encouraging them, ferchrisakes). Anyway, your man there from Guillemots will be playing on the 25th.
Saturday the 25th – Steve Ignorant’s “The Last Supper: Crass Songs 1977-1982” @ The (AHEM) Academy 2, Birmingham – Crass are quite possibly the last band from whom I would expect to see ex-members doing nostalgia gigs in big corporate venues, but this could be interesting nevertheless.
Saturday the 25th – “Whose Shoes” (Theatr Lolo) @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – One poor young’un acquires a younger sister, who wants to half-inch her awesome slippers. Being a sibling-less type I can see how this would be bloody infuriating. For 5-7 year olds. (EDIT: I mean the play is for 5-7 year olds, not that it would only be irritating for 5-7 year olds. The shoe-teefin’ would be annoying for anyone).
Sunday the 26th – Paul Heaton @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – Of The Beautifully Southern Housemartins fame.
Sunday the 26th – Deer Tick @ Taylor John’s House, Coventry – Intense country-rock. I am told by trustworthy fellows that they’re quite the thing, live.
Tuesday the 28th till Saturday the 2nd of October – “The Habit Of Art” (National Theatre) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Alan Bennett, ladies and gentlemen.
Tuesday the 28th – Mark Ronson @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – I risk the wrath of Bounder by invoking this name.
Thursday the 30th and then every Thur/Fri/Sat for five weeks hence – “A Play, A Pint And A Pie” (Paines, Plough and Òran Mór) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – For only ten of your English pounds you can have a pie, a drink and see one of five new 45 minute plays. Dinnertime performances, too.
Bo Ningen are Japanese but (it seems) based over here, and they were Bloody Ace with a capital “B” (and/or “A”, whichever way you want to chop it). Some old-timey garagey riffs and some pointy-sounding post-punk-y riffs, with funny time signatures and some resemblance to the K-word that I’ve been using far too often so far this year. With them rocking like mad and being very animated on stage, I thoroughly enjoyed their set. Definitely one to look at/listen to further.
Before we get on to discussing the wonder of Chrome Hoof I want to get two minor negative points out of the way. Firstly there were only seven of them at this gig – they’re supposed to number double figures at least. This was the third time I’d seen them but in some ways it only feels like two-and-a-half. Mind you, as Stevie Too Bad pointed out when I told him about it the following day: “That’s the trouble with these modern motherships mate – they can be flown by a smaller crew!”
Secondly, although people were shouting out “HOOF!” as is right and proper, they were pronouncing it as though they came from Surrey or somewhere. Hoof, particularly here, should rhyme with “monkey’s chuff” and not with “that example is uncouth”. Don’t argue with me, posho.
Other than that – sublime. Perhaps not quite as much so as at their lauded 2007 Bar Academy gig, which was a top-twenty set of all time ever and co-incidentally where I acquired that story I have about being beamed up and probed, but sublime nevertheless. We had the customary silver robes for most of the band (the next step is surely for committed fans to start attending gigs in their own home-made versions). We had a white catsuit and several-inch-long false nails for singer, giving us a vision of some Blaxploitation Fredwina Krueger. We had the sounds of their disco/funk/K-genre/metal/psychedelic/avante garde. We had their weirdo rhythms. We had lots of passages that should by all rights be complete chaos but in the hands of this band were focussed into tight-as-a-gnats-hoof (see) prog/dance music from the moon via The Mothership. We had, most importantly of all, bassoon.
I really do think there should be more bassoons in pop.
(There’s another account here, with some great photos).
Off I jolly well went to The Hare And Hounds in King(‘)s Heath on the twelfth, for a gig that I was quite looking forward to but in the end turned out to be a minor disappointment.
I arrived halfway through Windscale’s set, and what I heard didn’t move me. Apparently (and I couldn’t see too well from where I was standing while they played, but I have read that) they make use of a lot of circuit-bending and instruments of unusual progeny and so on. This is a noble aim and something I approve of, but sadly it didn’t seem to add a lot to the music – most of it with the usual up-and-down post-rock dynamics, the last song with an accelerating Krautrock (there’s that word again) feel, stock stuff etc. etc. etc.. Shame, really.
Mothertrucker were the best of the night, but never mind that – this may have been the first time I’d seen ‘em in ages but with this they finally became my joint-most-seen band (equalling the 24 times I saw Mistress). This was a whole set of stuff I hadn’t previously heard (or at least haven’t heard much) before, and it did seem a bit closer to typical instrumental metal business than other things they’ve done in the past. Still enjoyable though, in particular the Really Big Scary Doom stuff that the one track was stylin’.
Grails were the main disappointment. I loved them when I saw them at the same venue a few years back and I love two out of the three albums of theirs that I’ve heard (“Black Tar Prophecies” and “Burning Off Impurities), but this was something recognisably different. No banjo! Nothing rustic at all, in fact. They had some rustic at the 2006 gig, didn’t they? Perhaps I’m misremembering.
I’d left before they’d finished (for the usual reasons) but long stretches just seemed to be washes of keyboards with echoey guitar leads over the top. I suppose the comparison would be “Wish you Were Here” era Pink Floyd if we’re feeling generous, or an instrumental Dire Straights if we’re not. They had their moments but a lot of it seemed pretty flat. Even more of a shame, really.
Overheard quote of the night: “Are all these bands anti-lyrics, then?”