Call me Russ L

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands: March 2013

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, Food, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 27 February, 2013

It seems like we have a pattern, then. I do one or two of these posts aroundabout this time of the year, then a couple more in autumn, and that’s it. Still, there’s plenty to be getting on with – there’s the usual Crufts and Flatpack festival and St Padraig’s and lots-of-opera that you’ll see in March in the West Mids, but this year you can add it to a big joined theatre thing, a vague two-tone theme, modern minimalist composers, and Rolf Harris.

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.

Thursday the 28th of February until Saturday the 2nd – Giacomo Puccini’s “Il Trittico” (students of Birmingham Conservatoire) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Three one-act operas for the price of one.

Friday the 1st – “The Furies” (Kindle Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – A feminist reading of the Oresteia (Clytemnestreia, presumably), performed through rock/metal songs. (Also at A.E. Harris in the Jewellery Quarter on the 23rd).

Saturday the 2nd – The Atlantic Players @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – A really fun southern soul band, who I enjoyed at Mostly Jazz/Funk/Soul last year. Speaking of which, the line-up for this year’s MOJFAS is starting to come out.

Saturday the 2nd – Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” (Ellen Kent Opera & Ballet International) @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – With a donkey onstage.

Saturday the 2nd – Mandy Romero’s “In Excelcis” @ The Public, West Bromwich – A personal history of glam rock, from a trans* perspective. And if I’ve got the asterisk wrong there then please assume the asterisk leads to a footnote apologising for my ignorance. And I do mean that sincerely.

Saturday the 2nd – “Whisky Birmingham” Festival @ The Bond, Digbeth, Birmingham – I don’t have the first idea what-all is what’s what when it comes to whisky, but I thought I’d mention this here as a comparative novelty (there are always ale festivals everywhere, but this seems a touch less frequent). Does the no-E spelling of “whisky” mean that it’s American and Irish stuff rather than Scottish? I can never remember which way round it’s supposed to be.

Sunday the 3rd – UFO @ The Institute (Library Room), Digbeth, Birmingham – This obliquely leads me wonder about why you never hear “Doctor, doctor!” jokes anymore.

Tuesday the 5th till Saturday the 9th – the Welsh National Opera come to town @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – A new boss equals new and exciting things from the WNO. Here we have Lulu on the 5th, The Cunning Little Vixen on the 7th, and Madame Butterfly on the 6th, 8th and 9th.

Tuesday the 5th – Sigur Rós @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Glaciers, etc.

Tuesday the 5th – The Magic Band @ The Robin 2, BilstonSans Captain Beefheart, for the usual set of reasons.

Tuesday the 5th – John Cage’s “4’33” @ The ICC/Symphony Hall Café, Birmingham

Wednesday the 6th till Saturday the 9th – “Cadfael: The Virgin In The Ice” (Middle Ground Theatre) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – The abbot, in the chapterhouse, with the poisonous herbs.

Wednesday the 6th – Steve Reich @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Firstly the man himself will be performing Clapping Music. Then, the London Sinfonietta will be giving what is on the second ever (evaaaar) performance of his new “Radio Rewrite”, in which he attempts to remake Radiohead songs in his own inimitable way. By this point in time I think we can afford to just trust him and go with it.

Wednesday the 6th – George Dillon’s “The Gospel Of Matthew” @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – St Matthew acted out with what is apparently no small degree of intensity.

Wednesday the 6th – The Hot 8 Brass Band @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Funky hip-hopity New Orleans brass band. Sousaphone! I keep telling you that the sousaphone is the best of all instruments and you never listen.

Thursday the 7th till Saturday the 16th – “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” (Blue Orange Arts) @ The Blue Orange Theatre, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – ROOD.

Thursday the 7th till Sunday the 10th – Crufts @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – HOUNDS.

Thursday the 7th – screening of “The Ghost Of Piramida” @ Birmingham Bike Foundry, Stirchley, Birmingham – The lovely Danish band Efterklang travelled to an island in the arctic circle north of Norway to record their last album, and a film was made about it all. You can watch a screening of it in a room above a pushbike shop, although since there’s only room for 25 people you probably won’t.

Saturday the 9th till Sunday the 24th – Theatre Fever @ various venues in the West Mids – A linking title (they didn’t call it a festival, and I call that progress) for lots of different plays that are going on, as well as a few other bits and bobs too. This includes shop windows, penguins, pubs, and lots of things mentioned elsewhere in this post because I hadn’t heard of this until just now and I’m damned if I’m going to go back and re-write them.

Saturday the 9th till Monday the 18th – St Padraig’s Day Festival @ around Digbeth, Birmingham – Too ra loo ra loo, too ra loo ra li. The parade itself is often said to be the third largest in the world.

Saturday the 9th – Alex Bockie’s “The Inferno Kid” @ A.E. Harris, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – The tale of a broken ex-pro wrestler, which I always find fascinating. I think there was actually an Inferno Kid, but I don’t think this is based on him.

Saturday the 9th – The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown @ The Robin 2, Bilston – I hope he still wears his flammable hat.

Saturday the 9th – The Jasmine Moon Ensemble @ Ort Café, Moseley, Birmingham – Sino-Irish trio who play traditional Chinese music on traditional Chinese instruments. I saw them at Moseley Folk last year and thought that they were lovely.

Saturday the 9th – Huey Morgan And The New Yorkers @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – Stick ’em up punk it’s (one of) the Fun Lovin’ Criminals.

Saturday the 9th – Professional Boxing (First Team Promotions) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – One hundred years of boxing at the Civic! That is amazing. I’ve always said that the balcony is great for fightsports, though – you get a good view. This one is headlined by Thomas Costello’s English title fight (a title shot at last! It’s gone slower for him than many seemed to expect), but there are a pile of other fights and apparently there will be music and cabaret and whatnot else, since it’s a special occasion.

Tuesday the 12th till Friday the 15th – “The Anatomy Of Melancholy” (Stan’s Cafe) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (studio space), Warwick University, near Coventry – A staged version of Robert Burton’s 17th century semi-satirical work of philosophy/self-help-book, which (funnily enough) I am actually reading at the moment. I have no idea at all how they’re going to do this, but it’s Stan’s Cafe so you can be absolutely certain that it’ll be enormously witty and inventive.

Wednesday the 13th – St Vitus @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Do-do-do-do-dooooom.

Thursday the 14th till Thursday the 28th – “Heather Gardner” (Birmingham Rep theatre company) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – The modernised version of “Hedda Gabler”. Youseewhattheydidthere with the name.

Friday the 15th – Olivia Newton-John @ The NIA, Birmingham – Getting physical.

Friday the 15th – Cannon, Campbell, Watchorn & O’Connor @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Formerly of The Dubliners. Now that The James Brown Rule has wrought its terrible effect on The Dubs, this’ll be your closest. It’s quite near the 17th, too.

Saturday the 16th – Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Oh lordy lord it’s the ghost boat! In all seriousness we should show appropriate appreciation for the fact that we have one of the world’s foremost Wagner men right on our doorstep, ‘cos he’ll probably be here for a while yet but he won’t be here forever.

Saturday the 16th – The Stranglers @ The Academy, Birmingham – You know how it gets when someone eats all the miniature chocolates. “Whatever happened to all the heroes?” you’ll ask.

Saturday the 16th – The Selecter @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Two-tone in the Black Country in March #1.

Wednesday the 20th – Nas @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – You a slave to a page in his rhyme book.

Thursday the 21st till Sunday the 31st – Flatpack Film Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – At the time of posting the line-up isn’t available, which seems a bit late to leave it really. Still, there’s a sneakypeak advance post here, and in any case there’s always loads of brilliant stuff. Always always always. (EDIT: Here y’go, the line-up is out now).

Thursday the 21st – Skunk Anansie @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – If you are in any sort of doubt at all about whether or not you need to go to this gig, look what happened last time they played there.

Friday the 22nd and Saturday the 23rd – “Rasputin’s Mother” (Encore Drama) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – He took some killing, but what if even then he wasn’t dead?

Friday the 22nd – “Call Mr Robeson” (Tayo Aluko & Friends) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – The life of Paul Robeson, actor/singer/civil rights campaigner.

Friday the 22nd – The Real Thing @ The Robin 2, Bilston – You to them are everything.

Saturday the 23rd – Rolf Harris @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Doing music and a painting onstage. Presumably not at the same time. I do actually (genuinely) think that ol’ Rolf is underrated as a purveyor of comic song.

Saturday the 23rd – The Beat @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – Two-tone in the Black Country in March #2.

Tuesday the 26th till Thursday the 28th – “God’s Property” (Talawa Theatre) @ The MAC (theatre space), Digbeth, Birmingham – Two bothers are reunited in 1982 London, but racial tension hangs heavy in the air.

Tuesday the 26th and Wednesday the 27th – Emeli Sandé @ The Academy, Birmingham – There for two days then she’s gone, then she’s gone, then she’s gone.

Wednesday the 27th – Steve Harris’ British Lion @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – I was genuinely surprised to see that Steve Harris of Iron Maiden fame had a solo project, given that he’s always portrayed as a bossman figure who will brook no dissent and is always firmly in charge of what gets on their albums. I do quite like the fact that the catchphrase “Up The Irons” can be replaced with “Up The Harris” for this, but then again I am quite childish.

Friday the 29th – J.S. Bach’s “St Matthew’s Passion” (Ex Cathedra & The Baroque Orchestra) @ Symphony Hall, Bimingham – It’s a good old Good Friday passion.

Friday the 29th – Stiff Little Fingers / The Men They Couldn’t Hang / Ed Tudor Pole @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Now that’s what you call a line-up.

Saturday the 30th – Eels @ The Academy, Birmingham – Didja know that Hugh Everett III (of the many-worlds version of quantum wavefunction collapse) was the father of the fella from Eels? That’s a pretty hoopy family they have going on.

Sunday the 31st – Troumaca @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Bass-heavy calypso-sprinkled indie-rock sorts. It was a lovely story at MOJFAS: after they played, compere-for-the-day Giles Peterson (who will be DJ-ing at this) took to the stage in a daze and exclaimed “I’ve got to sign them!”

Reader, he signed them.

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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.

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

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 28 February, 2012

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 – Great Gran’s Great Games” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – Nan’s swimming, for ages four and up.

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 8th till Sunday the 11th – Crufts @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – HOUNDS.

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 till Saturday the 17th – “Waiting For Godot” (A Talawa Theatre Company/West Yokshire Playhouse) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – Nothing, as ever, to be done.

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 till Saturday the 17th – “The Big Bang” science & engineering fair @ The NEC, Marston Green, BirminghamScience~! For free. Free science.

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.

Tuesday the 20th till Friday the 23rd – “Ann Boleyn” (ETT/Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Company) @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – *Counts on fingers* … beheaded?

Tuesday the 20th and Wednesday the 21st – Harold Pinter double bill (European Arts Company) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – With The Dumb Waiter and The Lover.

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.

Thursday the 22nd – The Four Tops / The Temptations / Tavares / The Crystals @ The NIA, Birmingham – It’s a soul bonanza.

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 – Discharge @ The Ballroom, Birmingham – Why?

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.

Monday the 26th till Saturday the 31st – “Spamalot” (theatre company?) @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – It is a silly place.

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.

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

Posted in Books, Combat Sports, Films, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 29 January, 2012

Let’s have a Lots, for the first time in a little while.

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.

Tuesday the 31st of January and Wednesday the 1st – “The Trial” (Blackeyed Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – K-k-k-kick up a Kafka. This is the Steven Berkoff adaptation (see also the 8th/9th, if that’s pricked up your ears).

Thursday the 2nd till Saturday the 4th – Nick Makoha’s “My Father And Other Superheroes” @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Lessons for the kiddies about the role of fathers and/or the absence thereof.

Thursday the 2nd – “Meet The BBFC” @ The Light House, Wolverhampton – A talk from the British Board of Film Classification. Ask them about ‘mild peril’.

Friday the 3rd till Sunday the 5th – “Imaginary Friends” (Somesuch Theatre) @ The MAC (Hexagon room), Edgbaston, Birmingham – In which your man dials a wrong number but your woman at the other end decides to actually talk to him, it seems.

Friday the 3rd – Michael Chapman @ The Station, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Hopefully Janice Long won’t be around to get his name wrong, this time.

Friday the 3rd – The Misfits @ The Ballroom, Birmingham – The current-day version, so they’re without the pompous shortarse. Or without that one in particular, anyway. There may be other pompous shotarses amongst their number.

Friday The 3rd – “Scott Of The Antarctic Centenary Concert” (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – “I’m going out for a walk, I may be some time”. The CBSO will be doing Vaughan Williams and such in front of projections of the fillum. I once saw Einstellung playing in front of the same thing, but this won’t sound like that did.

Friday the 3rd – Sally @ Scruffy Murphy’s, Birmingham – Doooooooooooooooooooooom (etc).

Saturday the 4th – Suggs’ “My Life Story In Words And Music” @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – I expect it’ll be all such as “So then, it being Tuesday, I bought a hat…”

Saturday the 4th – “Watch The Birdy” (Birmingham Rep Theatre) @ The Library Theatre, Birmingham – About an egg that will not hatch. Wasn’t that “Orson’s Farm”?

Saturday the 4th – Laura Viers @ The MAC (Café), Edgbaston, Birmingham and The Institute (Library room), Digbeth, Birmingham – So she’s playing at The MAC in the afternoon, which will be a free gig for family-type groupings (what with her most recent album being aimed at the kiddies and whatnot), and then in the evening there’ll be a more usual type of thing at The Institute.

Sunday the 5th – Martin Simpson @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – That one who’s got that Dad.

Sunday the 5th – “The Songs And Music Of Bagpuss” with Sandra Kerr @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Although Bagpuss himself will not be there, I am sad to relay. *Stretches* *Yawns*

Wednesday the 7th till Saturday the 11th – “Yes Prime Minister” (I don’t know what the theatre company is called, but it’s the west end production) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – I got the DVD box of the complete “Yes Minister”/”Yes Prime Minister” for Christmas, you know.

Wednesday the 8th & Thursday the 9th – Steven Berkoff’s “Shakespeare’s Villains” @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – His one-man show about… well, the title is scarcely cryptic.

Thursday the 9th – “Thirsty” (The Paper Birds) @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, BirminghamDrink~!

Saturday the 11th till Saturday the 18th – “Gigglefest” children’s comedy festival @ The Central Library, Birmingham – Comedy aimed at children, that is. Not child comedians drafted in from some sort of sweatshop in Indonesia.

Saturday the 11th – Prizefighter light-welterweight boxing tournament (Matchroom Sports) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Ah, damnit – I love a one-night tournament and this looks like the best instalment of “Prizefighter” yet, but it sold out before I got around to getting a ticket. Oh well. I’m cheering for Mutley but my money would be on Watson.

Sunday the 12th – “John Peel’s Shed” (Show & Tell) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (studio theatre), near Coventry – The tale of a boy who won a box of records from the eponymic DJ-owned outhouse.

Wednesday the 15th – “The Planet Suite (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – It’s interesting to note that Pluto has both come and gone (planet-wise) since this. Accuracy has been preserved, in the long run.

Thursday the 16th – Richard Herring @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – I’d like to see more comedians named after fish.

Thursday the 16th – GZA @ The Ballroom, Birmingham – I dunno, no Wu-Tang members come over for years and then suddenly you can’t move for the little bleeders…

Saturday the 18th and Sunday the 19th – “Deathtripping” with Lydia Lunch @ Vivid, Digbeth, Birmingham – A journey “into the radical manifesto of the Cinema of Transgression, an 80s underground film movement which spawned from New York’s No Wave scene and is characterised by an extreme and satirical take on themes of pleasure, horror, sex and disgust”, if you will. Includes a spoken-word performance from no less than Lydia Lunch on the Saturday night.

Monday the 20th – Kylesa @ The Institute (Library room), Digbeth, Birmingham – Ace metal-headbanging-mad stuff when I saw them years ago. I don’t know about now, especially given that (from glancing around the web) it seems like they’re getting quite popular nowadays.

Wednesday the 22nd till Saturday the 25th – “Hobson’s Choice” (Birmingham Royal Ballet) @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – There seems to have been about 381 productions of “Hobson’s Choice” that have played locally over the last couple of years, at the very least. This one here, though, is a ballet.

Wednesday the 22nd – “Stalin’s Favourite” (Theatre Unlimited) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – The first part of a dictatorship-double-bill at The Old Rep. This one concerns what it was like for Konstantin Simonov to be Stalin’s favourite author.

Thursday the 23rd – “Defying Hitler” (Theatre Unlimited) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – The second part of a dictatorship-double-bill at The Old Rep. This one is about your ordinary man trying to live in the Third Reich.

Thursday the 23rd till Saturday the 3rd of March – “Gravity” (Birmingham Rep Theatre) @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Themes of provocation and science mix. At least two out of every three new plays have to have scientific themes, as any fool knows (not that this is a bad thing).

Thursday the 23rd – Labrinth (sic) @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – He of “Earthquake”, the undisputed winner of the song-most-frequently-played-through-phones-on-buses award of the last year or so.

Saturday the 25th till Saturday the 3rd of March – “The Crucible (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – It does show how times have changed – I go around accusing people of witchcraft all the time and I’m generally just ignored.

Saturday the 25th – Napalm Death @ The Institute (Library Room), Digbeth, Birmingham – I’ll happily make the most of any excuse to link to this.

Sunday the 26th – Subhumans @ The Adam & Eve, Digbeth, Birmingham – I’m telling you, it’s gonna get worse.

Sunday the 26th – William Wegman’s “Woof! Woof!” @ Vivid, Digbeth, Birmingham – Video art about HOUNDS.

Monday the 27th till the 3rd of March – “Oleanna” (theatre company?) @ Highbury Little Theatre, Wylde Green, Birmingham – Do you see, do you see.

Monday the 27th – Iron Butterfly @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Dum-dum-dumm, dum-dum dum-dumm dumm dumm dumm…

Tuesday the 28th – Dave Reeves’ “Black Country Dialects” @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Yam-yam myths, legends and speech. Yow dow spake as proper like we.

Tuesday the 28th – Mick Foley @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – Doing a stand-up comedy/spoken word class of thing, but I’m sure he’d throw himself off a high object if you asked him nicely.

Wednesday the 29th – Beth Jeans Houghton / Goodnight Lenin @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Glam-pop-folk with support from Everybody’s Favourite Local Band (Apart From The Destroyers).

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands – November 2011

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, Food, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 30 October, 2011

Cats, hares, tortoises, seabirds and bears of possibly a couple of different types – it’s animal month.

Standard disclaimers: I can’t ensure that these events will go ahead, that they’ll be good, or that I will be going to them. This is just a list of things I found that looked like they might be interesting, so please do not contact me to ask for your event to be included. That’s not the way it works.

Ongoing through the month – “Shout” festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Brum’s festival of Queer/LGBT culture. Includes, amongst many other things, ”A Tale Of Two Symphonies” with the Birmingham Gay Symphony Orchestra (an entity of which I was not aware until just now), and tales of Stevenage.

Saturday the 29th of October until Saturday the 12th of November – “Macbeth” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – I love Macbeth. It’s just so gangsta.

Tuesday the 1st and Wednesday the 2nd – “Stig Of The Dump” (Mind The Gap Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – I loved the book as a child.

Tuesday the 1st – Melvins @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – One of those bands who I like, but don’t like as much as everyone else who likes them seems to like them, so everyone else who likes them doesn’t listen to me properly and just decides that I don’t like them. But I do like them. Just not as much as etc. etc. etc.

Tuesday the 1st – Natty @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – Children get your culture, and don’t stand there and gesture or the battle will be hotter.

Tuesday the 1st – Bill Bailey @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – Hawk The Slayer’s rubbish (do I make these references a touch too oblique at times?)

Wednesday the 2nd – Motorhead / Anti-Nowhere League / UK Subs @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Motorhead are clever – although they may have been playing more-or-less the same set for 381 years, they always make sure their annual autumn tour is a package-affair with other bands you might want to see. This time it’s all a bit punky.

Wednesday the 2nd – “Big Daddy vs Giant Haystacks” (The Foundry Group Theatre) @ The Forrest Arts Centre, Walsall – A comedy about Big Daddy vs Giant Haystacks, which is one of ideas that I suspect we all wish we’d had first.

Thursday the 3rd – The Bad Shepherds @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – On their “First Farewell Tour”, which is at least honest.

Friday the 4th till Sunday the 6th – Cake International – The Sugarcraft & Cake Decoration Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – I saw the most gorgeous cake that was shaped and decorated like a bunch of roses, recently. I was enormously impressed, it was beautiful.

Friday the 4th – Anna Calvi @ The Institute (Library Room), Digbeth, Birmingham – She’s smaller than you’d imagine, in real life.

Friday the 4th – Toumani Diabate @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Playing his Kora. They should get him on with a choir, then you could have choral kora.

Saturday the 5th – UFC 138 (MMA) @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – Heh, a UFC card in Brum and I’m not going. I should be ashamed to call myself an MMA fan or such.

Saturday the 5th – Acid Mothers Temple @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – The over/under on how long they play for is set at 3.5 hours. Put your predictions in now, please.

Saturday the 5th – “The Hare And The Tortoise” (Tutti Frutti Productions & York Theatre Royal) @ The Library Theatre, Birmingham – Postscript scene here.

Saturday the 5th – An evening of Janacek and Dvorak (CBSO & City Of Birmingham Choir) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Just make sure you get a good seat and don’t have to sit uncomfortably to see, or you might end up with Czech neck. See also the Welsh National Opera entry below if you fancy a bit more Janacek.

Sunday the 6th – Glen Campbell @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – His last ever ever tour ever before retirement.

Sunday the 6th – The Drifters @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Any resemblance to any original band members living or dead is purely coincidental.

Sunday the 6th – Focus @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Dutch yodelling (also: prog-rock).

Monday the 7th – Ghostface Killah @ The Institute (The Library), Digbeth, Birmingham – It’s been a very Wu-Tang-y year in Brum, 2011 has. Assuming he turns up.

Wednesday the 9th till Sunday the 13th – Slava’s Snowshow @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – Not just for kiddies, this really is one of the most visually astonishing things that you’ll ever see.

Wednesday the 9th – Guillemots @ The Institute (The Library), Digbeth, Birmingham – Call ‘em a doctor.

Thursday the 10th – The Damned @ The Academy, Birmingham – On their 35th anniversary tour, which is pretty much guaranteed to make some folks feel extremely old.

Thursday the 10th – Paul Murphy @ The ICC (Symphony Hall foyer), Birmingham – Your man from The Destroyers, playing as part of the ongoing Folk For Free series.

Thursday the 10th and again on Saturday the 12th – Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Derrr, derrr, du-duh-duh, derrr, derrr, de-deh-deh, dun dun dun dun der dun dun, dun dun dun dun der dun dun. That’s my transcription of the invasion theme. I’m telling you, sheet music will be a thing of the past once my notation system catches on.

Friday the 11th and Saturday the 12th – “The Importance Of Being Earnest” (New Century Theatre Company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Possibly unfortunate timing, given the recent big Birmingham Rep version of this, but I suppose it could be fun to compare and contrast. Featuring (it appears) suitcases (not handbags) used prominently in the staging.

Friday the 11th – “Fighting The Cuts” (Banner Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Apparently a cabaret performance themed around resistance to the current government. That doesn’t sound like the type of thing you see every day.

Friday the 11th – “Sacred and Profane Love in 13th Century France” @ St George’s Church, Edgbaston, Birmingham – As performed by Sinfonye. What a title, though. What a dream of a title.

Saturday the 12th till Sunday the 20th – Grand Slam Of Darts 2011 @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – So I hear they’re starting to catch up with Phil Taylor nowadays, finally. I’ve always recommended not having heroes.

Saturday the 12th – Opeth @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – There’s always one “band I used to be into but have drifted away from over the years, for no obvious reason” every month, and your Swedish prog-folk-blues-metallers here are November’s representatives.

Saturday the 12th – Bellowhead @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Often said to be one of the best live bands going. I haven’t seen ‘em so I wouldn’t know, but people do say this.

Saturday the 12th – “Breaking Down The Wall” @ New Art Gallery, Walsall – Live poetry, percussion and graffiti. Connected with the Salaam Islamic Arts Festival.

Saturday the 12th – “Play School” (Mid*Point Theatre) @ A.E. Harris, The Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Presented as just as games evening, although I’m not so sure it wont turn out to be something a bit more, well, theatrical. Apparently they will provide board games and organise “low tech sports”. This leaves me wondering what a hi-tech sport might be. Robot Wars?

Sunday the 13th – Thomas Dolby @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Science~!

Monday the 14th till Saturday the 19th – “Keeler” (can’t seem to find the theatre company) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – The play about the Profumo Affair that is apparently very well regarded by Christine Keeler herself.

Tuesday the 15th till Saturday the 26th – “Bagpuss” (Birmingham Stage Company) @ The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Bagpuss! He’s so lovely.

Tuesday the 15th till Saturday the 19th – Welsh National Opera @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – With Don Giovanni on the 15th and 18th, Katya Kabanov on the 16th, and The Barber of Seville on the 17th and 19th.

Tuesday the 15th till Saturday the 19th – “Oh What A Lovely War” (Blackeyed Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Hasn’t this been on at The Arena for about fifteen runs in the last few years, or am I just imagining it? I’m not saying that this is a bad thing.

Tuesday the 15th – Wire @ The Institute (The Temple), Digbeth, Birmingham – I’d got the impression from somewhere that this was supposed to be a “doing Pink Flag all the way through” gig, in the way that all old bands do with their great albums nowadays, but it doesn’t look like it actually is. I have no idea where I got that idea from.

Wednesday the 16th – (MF) Doom @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – His name’s, Doom, they wonder who he is but don’t wor, -ry, believe me he’ll get busy. When it comes, to, poetry he’s got plenty, la la laa. La la, la la, la la.

Thursday the 17th to Sunday the 20th – “Autumn Almanac” @ Ikon Gallery, Birmingham – A four day affair with local createurs of sundry stripe. Includes a 7 Inch Cinema film selection (themed around the date it’s on, the 17th of November) and Doom-Tuba courtesy of Ore (they were amazing at Supersonic), amongst many other things.

Friday the 18th – The Beat / The Selecter @ The Town Hall, Bimingham – On my radio in the bathroom.

Friday the 18th – Boxing (First Team Promotions) @ The Town Hall, Walsall – Including Martin Gethin’s first local fight in ages.

Friday the 18th – Rihanna @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – And also at the NIA on the 29th. She’ll need a big umbrella indeed if everyone in venues of those sizes are to be invited to stand underneath.

Friday the 18th – The Dwarves @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – Once upon a time The Most Dangerous Band On The Planet, then a polite little pop-punk group, and I don’t actually know what they’re up to nowadays.

Friday the 18th – “The Lonely Clouds Of Guernica” (Come As You Are Arts Northwest) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – A play concerning the fact (and I didn’t know this one, but it seems hardly surprising) that Bush’n’Blair wanted Picasso’s “Guernica” covered up at the UN when they were a-having wars.

<iSaturday the 19th and Sunday the 20th – The Warley National Model Railway Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Choo-choo and indeed chug-a-puff. Is that Warley as in right here in Sandwell? Cool.

Saturday the 19th – The Supreme Show of the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Look at this, I mean really now.

Sunday the 20th – Morbid Angel @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – Surely the deathliest death metal that ever died metallically.

Tuesday the 22nd till Saturday the 26th – “The Producers” (West Bromwich Operatic Society) @ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – It’d be good if people dressed up for this in a manner similar to how folk do when they go to see “Rocky Horror”, ‘cos then we’d all have an excuse to carry our blue blankets around with us.

Tuesday the 22nd and Wednesday the 23rd – “A Clockwork Orange” (Volcano Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Apparently “Volcano Theatre Sidestep the cult movie and recapture the shock of the original novella”, which is good because I love the book and have never particularly liked the fillum.

Tuesday the 22nd – Beverley Knight @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Our Bev. There may be higher-energy artists and there may be artists in higher heels, but you won’t find a greater combination of the two.

Wednesday the 23rd and on until 2012 – “The Sleeping Beauty” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – From the perspective of the fairy who cursed Beauty to sleep in the first place.

Wednesday the 23rd until Sunday the 27th – The BBC Winter Good Food Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Incorporating, pleasingly, The World Cheese Awards.

Wednesday the 23rd – Alabama 3 @ The Academy, Birmingham – Actually, Opeth aren’t this months only candidates for “band I used to be into but have drifted away from over the years, for no obvious reason”.

Thursday the 24th till Saturday the 26th – “Hobson’s Choice” (The Luke Players) @ The MAC (Theatre Space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – I always think “Harold Brighouse” sounds like more of name for a gangster than for a playwrite. ‘Ard ‘Arry Brighouse from Landan taaahn.

Saturday the 26th – Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band @ The Cross, Moseley, Birmingham – Oh, Geno.

Saturday the 26th – Dimmu Borgir @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – It’s billed as “An evening with Dimmu Borgir”, and so I do hope they’ll be taking questions and relating humorous anecdotes about their lives. Whilst wearing corpsepaint.

Saturday the 26th – Martin Carthy @ Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton – If it’s a month with a vowel in it then you can be sure that at least one of the Waterson/Carthy family will be playing somewhere in your county.

Sunday the 27th – Deep Purple @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – Plus a full orchestra, ‘cos they’re a bit like that, that Deep Purple.

Tuesday the 29th – Flogging Molly @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Faith and begorrah, you can’t beat a bit of the auld Irish-American punk.

Wednesday the 30th till Saturday the 3rd of December – “Joseph K” (Birmingham School of Acting) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – A modernised version of “The Trial”. I am keen on Kafka, kid.

Wednesday the 30th and on until next year – “The Jungle Book” (Birmingham Stage Company) @ The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Bear necessities and Mother Nature’s recipes.

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands: February 2011

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 31 January, 2011

My first one in a while, due to me being useless. I’ll freely admit that there isn’t anywhere near as much loveable nonsense as I’d like there to be in such a post. Sorry.

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 June at different times – The Birmingham Mahler Cycle @ Town Hall/Symphony Hall, Birmingham – I cannot pretend that I’m not consistently poor when it comes to ongoing events, in these posts. They seem harder to include, somehow. I’ll just put it like this: the CBSO’s Mahler season continues and has lots going on this month, with his Ninth on Wednesday the 2nd (and an explanatory version with performed examples on the 3rd, which sounds like a great idea to me), Uri Caine’s variations around the Fifth on Saturday the (erm…) 5th, Kindertonlieder on Thursday the 10th, and the Tenth on Wednesday the 23rd.

Up until Saturday the 19th – “Too Much Pressure” (Belgrade Theatre Presents) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – What it was to be 16 in Coventry in 1979. Astonishingly, there’s no mention of Two-Tone in the blurb.

Tuesday the 1st till Saturday the 5th – “Mole In The Hole” (Oily Cart) @ The Studio, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry – You get to dig amongst the Moles and the Silly Rabbits and the Brave Snail. For 3-6 year olds, which I think is unfair. Because I want a go.

Tuesday the 1st – George Dillon’s “The Man Who Was Hamlet” @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – A (very well regarded) one-man-show about Edward De Vere, thought by some to be the man who actually wrote all of Shakespeare’s plays. The media never wants the Midlands to be allowed to have anything.

Thursday the 3rd till Saturday the 5th and then Wednesday the 9th until Saturday the 12th – “The Palace Of Wasted Dreams” (Women & Theatre) @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – The play coming at the end of a two-year participatory theatre project that examined women’s relationship with/towards alcohol. Cheersh! *hic*

Thursday the 3rd – “Honeycomb Club” night @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – With gypsy-punk from Mama Matrix, live-instrument dubstep from The Alternative Dubstep Orchestra, DJs, and video showings. They also make a point of saying that it’ll all be finished by 11:30pm, which is good ‘cos late finishes are often an arsepain you can catch from the Hare and Hounds.

Thursday the 3rd – “Japan Underground” night @ The Victoria, Birmingham – One for all of the many Japan fetishists out there, with live music from Hibari and some of those swankified Japanese photo booth thingies.

Friday the 4th until Saturday the 19th – “The Rememberers” (Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Apples & Snakes) @ A.E. Harris, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – A dystopic play performed in the style of “a live hip-hop graphic novel”. I can’t even begin to imagine how that might work, but it sounds interesting.

Friday the 4th – Skunk Anansie @ The Academy, Birmingham – Rescheduled from last year. Still a band who are far less-well-remembered from their first time around than I would have expected, and I think that’s a shame.

Sunday the 6th – Chinese New Year festivities @ The Arcadian Centre, Birmingham – The year of the rabbit, I gather. Here be dragons.

Sunday the 6th – Ms Dynamite @ The Rainbow Warehouse, Digbeth, Birmingham – Kids these days with their Katy B. I bet half of ‘em don’t even remember “It Takes More”. Hurrumph, bah, etc.

Wednesday the 9th till Saturday the 12th – “How To Disappear Completely And Never Be Found” (Warwick Uni Drama Society) @ The Studio, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry – In which we see the downfall of an advertising wanker (I’m only guessing that he’s a wanker, but I bet I’m right).

Wednesday the 9th – Mark Steel @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – He’s at The Wulfrun Hall in Wolfyhampton on the 17th, too.

Thursday the 10th – Lúnasa @ The Public, West Bromwich – Instrumental too-ra-loo-ra-loo. The flautist was absolutely bloody hilarious when I saw them at the Moseley Folk Festival last year.

Thursday the 10th – John Shuttleworth @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Ooff, on his “A Man With No More Rolls Tour”. He’s a nice man, that Mr Shuttleworth. Ooff.

Thursday the 10th – Daniel Kitson’s “The Interminable Suicide Of Gregory Church” @ The Theatre, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry – The tale of a man who has altogether too many suicide letters to write before killing himself. Apparently this has been slept through by such celebrities as Jeremy Paxman and Lou Reed. I can’t put my finger on why that seems to add a touch more lustre to it, but it certainly does.

Monday the 14th – “I Skanked Me Valentine” night @ The Wagon & Horses, Digbeth, Birmingham – Never mind any of that soppy stuff, take your beloved out see to The Cracked Actors and Tarantism on St Valentine’s day.

Monday the 14th – poetry sharing night @ The Library Theatre, Central Library, Birmingham – Outside of this being a perfect example of the continuing reluctance of the library theatre management to let people know what is going on there (I caught this via the the CIB Tumblr site. At the time of typing it isn’t on the Birmingham libraries “What’s On” page, which is in itself a fairly hidden part of the Brum council site), here is an event at which you can read your own poems alongside the chance to hear numerous notable poets reading out theirs too.

Wednesday the 16th – Kayo Dot @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Classical/popular fusion that comes from the popular side but nevertheless means more by “classical” than “it’s got a violin in it”. Ooh that really winds me up, that particular one.

Wednesday the 16th – “Nursing Lives” (Vamos Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – An en-masked performance (they look a bit creepy, actually – click the link to see) about the nurses of the Royal Worcester Infirmary in WW2.

Friday the 18th and Saturday the 19th – “Gandhi And Coconuts” (Kali Theatre) @ The Public, West Bromwich – In which Hindu gods enter the imagination of a bored housewife.

Friday the 18th – Europe @ The Academy, Birmingham – DOODLOO DOO, DOODLOO-DOO DOO, it’s the final episode of “Countdown”.

Friday the 18th – Dawn Penn @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – No, no, no: The Jim Trot of reggae (and I mean that in a good way), backed here by locals sorts the Friendly Fire Band. And if that isn’t enough…

Saturday the 19th – John Holt @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – …then you can also go and see John Holt the night after and make this the most reggae weekend ever.

Tuesday the 22nd and Wednesday the 23rd – “A Dish Of Tea With Doctor Johnson” (Out Of Joint Theatre) @ The Studio, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry – Another historical character on stage. Boswell always strikes me as one of the most put-upon figures to have ever lived. (Also: sausage, SAUSAGE etc).

Thursday the 24th and Friday the 25th – “Stationary Access/Pedestrian” (Made In China) @ The Studio, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry – A double bill: a woman tells the story of ‘an extraordinary man’ over the course of half an hour on an exercise bike (bindun was my first thought, but that seems unfair), and a man is pursued from ordinary life to heaven by a fish.

Thursday the 24th – Mogwai @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Quiet bit quiet bit quiet bit LOUD BIT LOUD BIT quiet bit.

Friday the 25th – The Streets @ The Academy, Birmingham – I didn’t actually know he was still going, since I hadn’t heard anything about him for a long while. Then again, I tend to miss these sorts of things at the best of times.

Friday the 25th – Janelle Monáe @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – The astonishing (genuinely and sadly astonishing) way that she manages to use the term “schizo” aside, I adore that album from last year. I do hope we get some good sci-fi stageshow nonsense at this gig.

Friday the 25th – Mr Scruff @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Tuck your shirt in you bloody scruff.

Sunday the 26th – Boxing (First Team Promotions) @ The Town Hall, Walsall – Professional boxing back at Walsall town hall for the first time in ages (as far as I’m aware). Jamie Ball fights for the Midlands light-middleweight title, as well as fights involving Lee Glover and Rob Doody and a bunch of others.

Saturday the 26th – Discharge @ The Asylum, Hockley, Birmingham – Hear nothing see nothing say nothiiiiiiiinnngaaaargh~!

Saturday the 26th – Anna Calvi @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Torch songs meet gothique meet Morricone. Sounds like fun to me.

Tuesday the 28th – Boxing (Pat Cowdell) @ The Holiday Inn, Birmingham – The only fight listed at the time of writing is Steve Saville vs TBA, but then again it’ll be a dinner show and thus beyond the economic reach of the likes o’ we.

Some things I went to, some things I didn’t go to

Posted in Films, Modern Living, Music, Stage by Russ L on 29 September, 2010

Not only the actualities but also the possibilities that never were, ayit.

~ In a Barbie world: To The Town Hall of Birmingham on the 8th of September, for Modified Toy Orchestra. Micronormous (is there a website?) opened, a fella from Pram doing stuff in the vein of the parent band’s darker material. Both times I’ve seen him now it hasn’t quite clicked for me, and I can’t really put my finger on why. MTO are of course always fun, here exhibiting stuff from their upcoming album (although they have been playing some of these songs for years). Since Brian Duffy has been everywhere in the media lately I’ve no need to have a token stab at explaining the circuit-bending behind it all, and can go straight on to saying that “Qwerty” is always an enjoyable singalong and the video playing behind “Freeno And Olaf” is still the most lovely thing I’ve ever seen (it was introduced as a “Utopian Love Song”, too – I’m glad they’ve dropped the noble but non-working stratagem posited here and punctured et seq). The new one “Great Kings Fall” had a really interesting backing video, too – piles of coins built up to examples of architecture associated with various past regimes, before giving way to the expansion and contraction of modern cities (many levels. Or maybe I’m misreading it entirely). I (Along with many others) really do think MTO’s main strength is the way that they so effectively combine brain-stimulating cleverness and smile-inducing fun: they know that it’s important to both Kraftwerk and play (sorry). (Incidentally, gang, BrianDuffyHasABigBrain has an enormous amount of videos from/photography of/words about this gig if you care to have a look).

~ But is it art?: Artsfest ran from the tenth till the twelfth, and (insert stock thing about people not getting as annoyed if it didn’t have “art” in the title here). There definitely seems to be less there every time, though, and in this year of austerity there was even less still. On the Friday we only popped up for a little bit to see a couple of sets of pop music, Goodnight Lenin (you probably know them by now. West coast folk rock typathing, ace) and OST (is their actual name “OST” or “Old School Tie”? Indie-dance typathing, OK-ish). On Saturday we watched Treefrog Theatre’s “Three On A Match” at The Old Joint Stock Theatre (set in a very literal class war in the near future. Very funny, and a hell of a lot darker than any of Treefrog’s plays I’ve ever seen before. While I’m on the subject, what do they do for the rest of the year? They’re always a highlight at Artsfest but I never hear of them doing anything anywhere/time else); had a little diversionary non-Artsfest trip to Edgbaston Nature Centre; saw the Birmingham Royal Ballet performances in Centenary Square (including the ace Printer Jam. The performance on the day was a lot sharper and sexier than the one in that video); watched a bunch of fillums in the Cresent Theatre (highlights were definitely the documentary about the old statue of King Kong in Brum [incorporating this news item here] and Stephanie Zari’s “Marigolds”); and finally, of course, went to the CBSO’s Classical Fantasia, which is always fun and always has some fantastic fireworks.

~ Eh? Whaddya mean “We could well meet one day mate, maybe in a pub”? You live next-door to him, you clown: I was planning to go and see The Twang on the Sunday of Artsfest, but on the actual night I couldn’t really be arsed.

~ You fools! These are good biscuits and they cost four pounds!: After going back and forth in my thoughts more times than I bothered to count, I eventually decided not to go and see Half Man Half Biscuit at the Robin 2 in Bilston on the 15th. It was £18 on the door, and (while I have in the past ended up paying more for artistes I’m less bothered about) I just didn’t want to encourage that sort of silliness. Eighteen quid (sixteen in advance, whoopy-doo-dar) is just plain too much for this size of gig. I found out afterwards that Dean Friedman got up on stage with them, although that doesn’t give me any additional regret given that I’d never heard of him outside of their song “Bastard Son Of Dean Friedman”.

~ Somewhere that’s green: I took the parentals to The Rep for Little Shop Of Horrors on the 15th, as part of mom’s birthday doings. It’s a bit disgraceful that this was the first theatre trip I’ve had all year (if you don’t count the aforementioned Artsfest bit), especially in the year of this, but I can’t change that now. It was lovely stuff, anyway – precisely what you want from “Little Shop Of Horrors”. High energy, good comic timing, an inventive set (as so often at The Rep), ace puppeteering movements for Audrey II, great fun. Big smiles were a-smiled.

~ Don’t throw bloody spears at me: I didn’t go to “The Magnificent Seven” boxing card at the NEC for a few reasons (not only being occupied with the aforementioned theatre trip, but also due to the facts that A) I’ve decided that the NIA is my size limit for boxing unless I’m assured that there are going to be big screens; B) Macklin vs Barker was called off; and C) I got the feeling it wouldn’t finish till 3 in the morning and I’d end up paying a fortune to miss half of it), but that may be for the best given that the argy-bargy in the stands sounds like it may have gone a bit further than fun and games. Ah, Zulus. I still say hoorah for the kind of card-as-a-whole matchmaking that this was a crazy example of.

~ Did you hear the one about the Englishman, the Irishman and the German?: I didn’t go to see The Pope on the 19th either. Probably should have done, on general “when am I going to get to see that again?” grounds. The discourse around the whole thing has been massively irritating, though, and I find myself disagreeing with every possible ‘side’. Don’t nod in agreement, I’m talking about what you said as well. Especially what you said, in fact.

There have been more things that I’ve been to since then (and, obviously, even more that I haven’t) but I think I will cut it here for the time being.

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

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

All of the usual staples of LOTTSADITWM (music, theatre, fighting sports, things calling themselves “festivals”) and a few little additional oddities too.

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.

Wednesday the 1st till Saturday the 18th – “Little Shop Of Horrors” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Feeeeeeed me Seymour.

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”.

Friday the 3rd till Saturday the 5th – Birmingham Punx (sic) Picnic 2010 @ The Adam & Eve, Digbeth, Birmingham – With GBH, cider, Runnin’ Riot, Cracked Actors, cider, Contempt, cider…

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…

Wednesday the 15th – Half Man Half Biscuit @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Comic lyricists extraordinaire. I really am very sad that it took me as far into my life as it did to investigate their works.

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.

Tuesday the 21st & Wednesday the 22nd – “The Caretaker” (London Classic Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolvehampton – “It’s Pinter…”

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.

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

A short one this month, which is more my fault than that of the rest of the world. Having given it a last read-through before posting, I’d also like to note that I’m giving some serious consideration to toning down the stupid commentary henceforth. I probably won’t, though.

Standard disclaimers: I can’t ensure that these events will go ahead, that they’ll be good, or that I will be going to them. This is just a list of things I found that looked like they might be interesting, so please do not contact me to ask for your event to be included. That’s not the way it works.

From Monday the 1st and onwards into July – Bass Festival @ various venues in Birmingham and other cites too – This year’s theme is “Inspired by Africa and Africans”. All sorts of things are a-going on, so have a little look at the What’s On page.

Monday the 1st – Manic Street Preachers @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Intermittently worthwhile student-radical Welshers. Must all be about five hundred years old by now.

Tuesday the 2nd – The Horrors @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Hyped so much that even I’ve noticed, but you can have a listen to their new album here (scroll down a bit, try not to get too distracted by the picture of Rollins needing a wash) and I quite like it. 80s-style indie rock: bit of J&MC, bit of (a much more polite version of) The Birthday Party, derivative but great fun.

Tuesday the 2nd and Wednesday the 3rd – “Tempest In A Tea Cup” (Side By Side Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – There seem to be a few offshoots of ‘The Tempest’ knocking around the theatrical world lately. This one features dysfunctional MPs and is set in a kitchen and a standard lamp. Apparently.

Friday the 5th till Saturday the 13th of June – “The Government Inspector” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Wait for it, wait for it… Corrupt politicians and their cronies are afraid that their embezzling and wrongdoing will be exposed. Also there’s a play by Gogol (hithangyew).

Saturday the 6th – Pritchattsbury Festival @ Pritchatts Park, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Apparently in its sixth year and the biggest festival in Brum, although no-one seems to have heard of it. Those playing include Just Jack, Lethal Bizzle and The Rumblestrips, although I’m getting sick of this “using ‘-bury’ as a general suffix for a festival name” lark. Just as Watergate would now be Watergategate, that thing in the West Country is presumably now Glastonburybury.

Saturday the 6th – Joan Of Arc @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – Featuring ex-members of a pile of those types of bands that everyone else has heard apart from me, but never mind that: they sound like they have an interesting mix of wonky springy indie-rock, twingly-twangly guitar instrumentation that’s probably ala all those aforementioned bands although possibly not, and that kind-of-folksy-but-not-really American half-effort singing that is usually annoying but sometimes endearing, as per here. One day I’ll meet someone to whom my descriptions actually make sense, and it’ll probably bring about the apocalypse or somesuch.

Saturday the 6th – Schostakovich’s Fifth Symphony (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Nuts to that Stalin character. This’ll learn him.

Monday the 8th – Mark Thomas @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – The selection of policies for a “People’s Manifesto” continues. You can look at the full list here – I particularly like “Margaret Thatcher should pay for her own funeral”, “To replace organ donor cards with an opt out scheme”, “That the 1967 Abortion Act should be introduced to Northern Ireland”, “If MPs want a second job in order to gain a greater understanding of life outside of government, then the constituents should be able to vote and choose which job they think would best expand their MPs horizons”, and “Those who peddle homeopathic remedies should only receive homeopathic medicines when they have major illnesses”.

Tuesday the 9th – Lady Sovereign @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Hooray for short people! I don’t know, you lot with your ‘leg room’ and your ‘ow I’ve banged my head’.

Wednesday the 10th – The Drones @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Awesome Australian indie rock’n’roll band who awesomely and Australianly actually use the word ‘daggy’ in this interview. Awesome. And Australian. And also it’s an interesting read outside of that.

Friday the 12th – Boxing (First Team) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Steve Saville defends his Midlands Area lightweight title against Gary Reid, which is very far from a definite win for him. Lyndsey Scragg, meanwhile, has drawn Ugandan Agnes Adonga in a fight for something called the GBC women’s super-flyweight title, and Dean Harrison is on the card too.

Saturday the 13th and Sunday the 14th – “24 Hour Scalextric Grand Prix” (Stan’s Café) @ The A. E. Harris Building, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – I always think ‘Scalextric’ sounds like a mispronunciation along the lines of ‘skellington’ or ‘sumbarine’. But it’s not. A 24 hour race, anyway, with running commentary through the whole thing. 7 Inch Cinema will be showing some pictures, too.

Saturday the 13th – The Flyover Show @ Hockley Flyover, Hockley, Birmngham – Urban jazzman Soweto Kinch’s second annual all-dayer under the A-Road, which makes for a really cool venue. Artists on include Ty, Bashy, and even Linton Kwesi Johnson.

Saturday the 13th – ‘Sci-Fi Fete’ @ St Mary’s Church, Castle Bromwich, Birmingham – A science-fiction themed church fete is not something you see every day.

Saturday the 13th – Æthenor / Einstellung @ The Hare And Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Brought to you by Capsule, whose ranks are now (in a way) bolstered by P’Ashton. An example of intertwingling, perhaps.

Tuesday the 16th – Boxing (no bleeding idea) @ The Arden Hotel, Solihull – Sorry about that, but it’s the best link I can find. The world of boxing, yet again, decides that the best way to make sure its shows are full of punters is to make sure everything is a bit more difficult for them than it might otherwise be (although in the name of not being quite so relentlessly negative I’ll say that I am quite happy that this now exists. That has nothing to do with this card, of course). This will apparently feature Kell Brook vs John O’Donnell in a British welterweight title fight and Gary Buckland vs Henry Castle in an eliminator for the British lightweight. Quite why those particular fights would end up happening in Solihull is beyond me, but there we are.

Thursday the 18th – Billy Bragg @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Braggy normally does the Wulfrun when he plays in Wolves, but this one is at The Civic. Climbing the capitalist ladder as ever, tsk.

Friday the 19th – “The War Of The Worlds” @ The NIA, Birmingham – UUULLLAAAAAAAAA.

Friday the 19th – UFO @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Doctor Doctor, there’s a fly in my soup. You don’t hear those jokes nowadays. I think that’s a shame. This is also quite possibly a very oblique reference.

Friday the 19th – The Sweet @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Or a version thereof, anyway. That’s right. That’s right that’s right.

Sunday the 21st – “The Secret Life Of Bees” @ Clent Hills, Hagley – Beeeeees. This is a walk and talk about bees, I should add, not a play built from the novel of the same name or anything like that.

Monday the 22nd – Shonen Knife @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Japanese girly pop-punkists who were really young when they started but have been going forever and so probably aren’t really young any more, if I understand this ‘chronology’ lark rightly (see also: 1st of the month). My favourite (possibly apocryphal) story about them is that – when they first started – the guitarist couldn’t play her instrument while standing up, having only ever practiced whilst sitting down. I think there’s something really lovely about that.

Tuesday the 23rd till Saturday the 27th – “The BFG” (Fiery Light/Royal & Derngate) @ The Rep, Birmingham – I approve of Roald Dahl as an author for children. I don’t approve of children, obviously, but if they have to exist then Roald Dahl is a good author for them to read. Then when a bit older Rushdie’s “Haroun And The Sea Of Stories” and Gaardner’s “Sophie’s World”. Continue with Alice and Hitchhikers, and then they’re ready for Kafka. I reckon.

Tuesday the 23rd – A Hawk And A Hacksaw @ The Hare And Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Them having a song called “God Bless The Ottoman Empire” gives Johnny Punter a good reason to go to this gig. Them having one of those websites (I’ve linked the MySpace instead there, to spare you) that does the ol’ “resized pop-up window” thing gives a good reason to try and spite them by not going. I thought that crap had died out. Messing about with my screen without asking me is not the best way to endear yourself to me, dunno about you.

Wednesday the 24th – Blur @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Whoo and also, if you find yourself so inclined, Hoo.

Wednesday the 24th – Hot 8 Brass Band @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – It seems to be an evolving tradition for the H&H to host a hip-hop influenced brass band every month. Not that I disapprove of this.

Thursday the 25th – B.B. King @ The NIA, Birmingham – ‘The legendary bluesman’, as professional music writers would insist you refer to him.

Thursday the 25th – Jeff Beck @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – “So, Jeff Beck pops his head round the corner and mentions that there’s a little sweetshop at the edge of town…”

Friday the 26th till Sunday the 5th of July – Moseley Festival @ sundry locations in Moseley, Birmingham – All sorts of stuff in that there spot with those there people. I’m having trouble picturing a ‘Rocky Horror’ night at The Prince Of Wales, though. Also: it’s a bit of a digression, but Eye On Moseley has made me laugh more than any other blog I’ve seen in quite a long time.

Friday the 26th – Pendulum @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – They display an astonishing ignorance of arachnid physiology, it’s true, but they nevertheless make your body goi stiff an your spine goi numb. Come fe get some.

Sunday the 28th – Boxing (Warrior Promotions, I’m guessing) @ The Tower Ballroom, Edgbaston, Birmingham – One of these afternoon ones, I’m also guessing. Featuring a rematch between Dee Mitchell and Martin Concepcion: trust me when I say that their first fight was fantastic, up there with other four-round classics of our times like Gethin vs Carey and Davies vs Rasani.

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.