Call me Russ L

J.B’s to close down, suicide watch organised for members of Guns’n’Roses tribute bands

Posted in Modern Living, Music by Russ L on 10 September, 2010

I recently discovered that Dudley’s J.B’s is in administration. I’d always assumed that their (surely lucrative) tribute/covers band gigs must make enough money to finance the inevitable losses from their European-death-metal-bands-of-interest-to-about-fifteen-people-in-the-whole-of-the-West-Midlands gigs and their 80s-hair-metal-bands-whose-fans-can’t-get-their-zimmerframes-down-Castle-Hill gigs, but apparently not. I suppose a specialist genre-centric venue just ain’t going to survive nowadays, particularly a 1000+ capacity one. This fact will only be reinforced if, as was continually the problem with J.B’s, they make bugger-all effort to spread the word about what’s on there.

I’ve hardly been at all in recent years (the last time would have been December 2008), but I have plenty of both good and bad memories from J.B’s. Specific short anecdotes from the place: I saw the second-best live set I’ve ever seen there, from Neurosis (music so powerful it produced time dilation – I stood there transfixed for what I thought was about half an hour, and turned out to be an hour and a half); turning up to the Thursday club nights just before half nine (it was free to get in up till then), watching the half hour set from whichever local band was on that week, then going home again without having spent any money (I used to think I was being so clever and cunning); the time some random punter remarked to Seany Two Shirts that he liked “this Anti-Jew stuff”, apropos of absolutely nothing (the bands that night weren’t anti-semitic or anything); the toilet cubicle without a door on and the time that I walked round the corner to see it occupied by a bloke with his trousers round his ankles, taking a dump in full view of the world; the time I was walking out of the toilets (they’re not all lavatorial stories, honest) and heard someone behind me shout “Look at his cock! It looks like a cartoon!” (to this day I wonder – in what way?); Leatherface having the funniest between-song banter I’ve ever heard (I don’t remember what they said, all these years later, just that I laughed and laughed); Danny of The Wildhearts getting pulled offstage for being out of it on smack, and replaced for the rest of the set by a member of one of the support bands (who’d once played in a Wildhearts tribute band, aptly for J.B’s); other tales I am probably best off not re-telling, at least not here…

Ah, it’s sad. It wasn’t the best venue but we could really do without A) losing any live music venues at all; and B) losing anything else from Dudley, which has so little left in the town as it is.

There are still gigs booked up till Christmas, it appears. If you want to see WASP or Blaze Bayley or a band featuring Neil Buchanan from Art Attack (no really) then get in there while you still can.

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

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

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

Standard disclaimers: I can’t ensure that these events will go ahead, that they’ll be good, or that I will be going to them. This is just a list of things I found that looked like they might be interesting, so please do not contact me to ask for your event to be included. That’s not the way it works. (EDIT: This paragraph is not some obscure joke. It actually means what it says. By all means add me to your mailing list or whatever-have-you, but sending me a message that specifically asks for your function to be posted on here will not lead to it being posted on here).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Combat Sports, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 2 September, 2009

There wasn’t an August, but it really doesn’t seem like there’s never much that’s particularly exciting in August. This particular list is even less exhaustive than usual, and also even more music-dominated than usual, but that’s what I’ve managed to come up with. Sorry. The comments box is as open as ever for the awesome stuff I’ve missed, if you feel like using it.

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 2nd until Saturday the 19th – ‘Cabaret’ (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome, c’mon in. Or similar. We saw this production last year and it was quite good. Certainly less afraid of facing up to the nasty side of it all than a lot of big-budget touring musicals would probably be. I’m not sure about the extent to which the cast is the same as that one, but Wayne Sleep is definitely still playing The MC.

Wednesday the 2nd – Seasick Steve @ JB’s, Dudley – One of these occasions when the booking at JB’s really surprises you. Apparently it’s their 40th anniversary do and proceeds will be going to cancer charity ’The Proton Effect’. Scott Matthews is also on the bill, in proper Black Country fashion.

Thursday the 3rd – Maths @ The Flapper, Birmingham – Chaotic metally punk, or even screamo if you feel the need. They’re quite good from the bits and bobs I’ve heard, but more importantly than that they call themselves ‘Maths’ rather than ‘Math’. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that, in these times of everyone wanting to pretend to be an American.

Friday the 4th till Sunday the 6th – The Moseley Folk Festival @ Moseley Park, Moseley, Birmingham – Headlined by Saint Etienne (folk you say?), Beth Orton and Jethro Tull, whilst also featuring Swarbrick:Carthy, Ade Edmondson’s band, Keli Ali, Cara Dillon and a load of others. Bert Jansch won’t be there as originally advertised, due to ill-health.

Friday the 4th till Sunday the 6th – Birmingham Punks Picnic @ a few places in Brum – Cannon Hill Park on Saturday afternoon for cheap cider (no doubt), then gigs in the evening: The New Inn in Balsall Heath has Drongos For Europe and more on Friday then GBH, Runnin’ Riot and others on Saturday, whilst The Wagon & Horses in Digbeth has a line-up that includes Assert on Sunday.

Saturday the 5th and Sunday the 6th – “Off The Cuff” music event @ The Flapper, Birmingham – On the one hand it doesn’t look like Rolo Tomassi are doing this anymore (unfortunate) and their MySpace page doesn’t actually tell you which bands are playing on which day (stupid), but on the other hand some of the acts will be playing on a docked barge on the canal outside (brilliant).

Monday the 7th – Tori Amos @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – She’s ace, although she wasn’t that good when I saw her live a few years ago. But she is ace.

Thursday the 10th – The Drifters @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – To repeat what I said in a previous LOTTSADITWM: “Or a version thereof, at least. No Ben E. King or Clyde McPhatter, for obvious reasons.”

Thursday the 10th till Sunday the 13th – the opening of the new version of the Birmingham Academy @ The, erm, new version of the Academy, Birmingham – The previous toss-hut has closed its doors to be demolished (well, good) and a new ‘un is due to open. Let’s be positive – while it’d be outright stupid to hope that most of the problems with the old place will be rectified, perhaps the new place will be a better building and so perhaps some of the structure-related stuff will be better. Any sort of improvement would be a blessing, really. The opening doings involve four days o’ gigs headlined by Birmingham bands who have achieved fame (relatively) recently: Editors on Thursday, The Twang on Friday (apparently with nine other bands, although obviously it’d make life far too easy if the Academy website were to tell us who they are), The Streets on Saturday, and Ocean Colour Scene (bless) on Sunday. Lovely to see ‘em showing their commitment to the full ethnic make-up of Birmingham’s music so early on.

Friday the 11th till Sunday the 13th – Artsfest @ all over Birmingham – Annual free-family-fun-weekend that everyone bar me seems to hate. Typically there’s no sign of a line-up/timetable yet, but there is a list of ‘themes’, including the anniversaries of the death of Matthew Boulton, the birth of Charles Darwin, and the creation of… Barbie. I’m not making this up. (EDIT: The leaflets are out now, got one through the door today. Still nothing on the website, though). (EDIT EDIT: The timetable is on the website now. See comments below, too).

Friday the 11th – Electric Wizard @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Dooooooooooom.

Sunday the 13th – The Men They Couldn’t Hang @ The Robin 2, Bilston – They really should get TMTCH on at the Moseley Folk Festival, now that I think about it.

Friday the 18th – Boxing (First Team) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Steve Saville has a go at Scott Lawton for the English lightweight title, and if you’re into slebriteez then Angel McKenzie from ‘Big Brother’ faces our own local Lyndsey Scragg. I am completely confident that Lyndsey will absolutely wreck her, so let me know if you can find anyone running a book on it.

Sunday the 20th – The Digbeth O’Lympics @ various pubs in Digbeth – Although the website just shows you a flyer and doesn’t tell you what the events are (‘not wanting to let on about the line-up’ seems to be the theme this month, doesn’t it? Event promoters, you’re all rubbish. All of you), but in this case I don’t suppose it matters that much. Have a pint instead.

Tuesday the 22nd – Massive Attack @ The Academy, Birmingham – Currently running back at two members, I think. Possibly.

Tuesday the 22nd – Theo @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Fantastic loop-pedallin’ maths-rock one-man-band who rocked both your socks and mine at Supersonic this year. He’s first on the bill, with Fook Boottons headlining.

Wednesday the 23rd – “Under Milk Wood” (Guy Masterson) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Dylan ‘That’s lovely, you see, isn’t it’ Thomas. This claims to be “perhaps the ultimate rendition” of it, with a very strategically placed ‘perhaps’.

Thursday the 24th – The Wildhearts @ The Academy, Birmingham – Will my unbroken run of failing to attend any Wildhearts and/or Wildhearts-related gigs since June 2001 continue? The sensible money would say ‘yes’.

Saturday the 26th – AMMA @ Banks’ Stadium, Bescott, Walsall – The latest in the always-fantastic series of amateur MMA cards put on by Marc Goddard and co. The most recent bill I can find is here.

Monday the 28th till Saturday the 3rd of October – “Dinnerladies” (The Comedy Theatre Company) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – The telly series was one of the greatest telly serieseseses ever, I think (by which I mean that it was really good, and not that I’m trying to damn it with faint praise). Obviously I don’t know how good this is.

Monday the 28th – the live version of “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – I was really quite overjoyed to walk past Mornington Crescent tube station when I went to London in February.

Wednesday the 30th – ‘Canal Music’ @ outside The Flapper, Birmingham – This is a lovely idea for a tour: Lisa Knapp and Leafcutter John are playing a series of gigs up the length of the Grand Union Canal. It ends in Birmingham (obviously), outside The Flapper. I don’t know if they’re actually playing from the barge or not. If they are that’ll take a bit of the novelty away from the “Off The Cuff” thingy mentioned above.

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands – May 2009

Posted in LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 30 April, 2009

So apparently there’s no Fierce Festival this year. Bah. A very music-centric one this time (even more so than usual), anyway, but there’s still plenty of different things agwaan.

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

Friday the 1st of May – IWW West Midlands’ International Workers Day party @ The Wagon & Horses, Digbeth, Birmingham – Not actually on the day in question but nevertheless featuring food and drink and music a-plenty (including Una Corda and D’Corner Bois).

Friday the 1st – Mayday Art Crawl @ sundry locations in Digbeth, Birmingham – Like the above it’s not actually on Mayday, but still: Vivid, Ikon Eastside and Eastside Projects all have new exhibitions, and then there are plenty of good pubs in that neck of the woods for afterwards. Pubs where you can complain about people saying ‘Eastside’ instead of ‘Digbeth’.

Friday the 1st – Paul Murphy @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Doing a solo/smaller version of the “Sir Rhu Barb’s Tale” lark I saw in December. I suspect this way might work a bit better than that did, actually.

Saturday the 2nd till Monday the 4th – ‘The Ultimate Pet Show’ @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Not just your ordinary pets, oh no. This is for the ultimate in pets. Also including Britain’s Most Talented Pet (click that – I love the fact that the pictures of dogs playing the piano and mowing the lawn are left to explain themselves, but if you hover your pointer over the picture of a horse on its back you get a caption saying ‘horse rolling’. Just in case, y’know, you thought it had just died or something).

Saturday the 2nd – ‘World 501 Dholis’ @ Centenary Square, Birmingham – An attempt to break the world record for the number of dhol drummers playing in one place at one time, in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. Wasn’t this meant to happen at Artsfest last year? I don’t know, I get confused.

Sunday the 3rd – Ginger / Laika Dog @ J.B’s, Dudley – That would be Ginger of The Wildhearts fame, and the current band involving Tony Wright of Terrorvision fame. It’s like some 90s Britrock extravaganza.

Sunday the 3rd – Sky Larkin @ The Victoria, Birmingham – An interestingly dynamic indie rock’n’roll band about whom I’ve liked the odds ‘n’ sods I’ve heard for ages but haven’t ever really got around to checking out properly. As is my way. I think they may be headlining an alldayer here, actually, but I’m not entirely sure. Uselessness all-round from your correspondent, then.

Sunday the 3rd – Sway @ The Drum, Newtown, Birmingham – A man who deserves to go down in history for his guest verse on The Mitchell Brothers’ “Harvey Nicks” (watch 2:35 – 3:23 here, really now).

Monday the 4th – Cancer Bats / The Plight / SSS @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Very metal, although I suspect it may not be metal that is considered True by the purists…

Tuesday the 5th – Saxon / Doro @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – …Unlike this one, which qualifies as proper metal under any and all systems that you might use to count.

Thursday the 7th – Jeffrey Lewis And The Junkyard @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – He was with The Jitters last time I saw him, rather than The Junkyard. These people should make their minds up, I say.

Thursday the 7th – ‘Making Do’ @ The New Art Gallery, Walsall – Great big free extravaganza from Capsule and 7 Inch Cinema, based around themes of post-war austerity. There’s live music from Pram, July Skies and The Winter League; there’s a film programme including the Housewives’ Choice series that I was sad to miss last year; there’s knitting courtesy of Stitches And Hos; there’s loads of other stuff too.

Friday the 8th till Saturday the 23rd – ‘Serious Money’ (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Rep, Birmingham – Caryl Churchill spearin’ yuppies. Possibly given newer relevance on top, what with recent financial happenstances ‘n’ such.

Saturday the 9th – Project X Presents “Xhibition! @ a few different venues in Moseley, Birmingham – An assortment of various stuff, as is Project X’s wont, all centered around the big crossroads in Moseley.

Monday the 11th till Saturday the 16th – ‘Dinnerladies’ @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – I really thought the telly programme (the second series in particular) was one of the most wonderful things ever. This stage version stars Tony and Anita from that, too.

Wednesday the 13th – Morrissey @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Stephen, not Neil.

Thursday the 14th till Saturday the 16th – “Our Country’s Good” (Rage Ensemble) @ The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Australians wouldn’t give Castlemaine XXXX for anything else.

Friday the 15th till Saturday the 30th – “Looking For Yoghurt” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company, Hanyong Theatre, and a pile of others) @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – A collaboration between British, Japanese and Korean theatrical sorts, this children’s show involves a little ‘un looking for her cat, Yoghurt. That is a magnificent name for a cat.

Friday the 15th till Saturday the 17th – ‘English Originals’ folk festival @ Symphony Hall and Town Hall, Birmingham – The second year running for this TH/SH weekender. Here we have the lovely Rachel Unthank And The Winterset on Friday night, a tribute concert to Nick Drake on the Saturday (involving Vashti Bunyan amongst others), and Seth Lakeman on the Sunday. On top of the big gigs there are also films, talks and free performances (including a set in the ICC on Friday from Mama Matrix, who also appear to be playing at The Wagon & Horses later that night).

Friday the 15th – Melt Banana @ The Rainbow Warehouse, Digbeth, Birmingham – Japanese madness for May #1 (also: this is at The Rainbow Warehouse, not The Med Bar/Factory Club as advertised in some places).

Friday the 15th – Church Of Misery @ Busk, Birmingham – Japanese madness for May #2/Sabbath worship for May #1.

Friday the 15th – Cursive @ The Hare And Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – I think this is beginning to take the Michael a bit, with so many worthwhile gigs on the same night. Overwrought but witty American indie, anyway.

Saturday the 16th – Chris Addison @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Ooh, I’m looking forward to seeing ‘In The Loop’. I really do love ‘The Thick Of It’.

Saturday the 16th – “Caliban’s Island” (Somesuch Theatre) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – What happened after ‘The Tempest’, when they’d all buggered off and left Caliban on his own.

Sunday the 17th – Witchcraft @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – Sabbath worship for May #2.

Monday the 18th – Mark Thomas @ The Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry – And you can submit your own policies for the “People’s Manifesto” he’s compiling. Compulsory wearing of wigs on Wednesdays it is, then.

Tuesday the 19th – Maximo Park @ The Academy, Birmingham – I described the first song I heard by them (courtesy of Paul Greyshades) as sounding like ‘a Sparks/Therapy? collaboration voiced by a cross between Ian Curtis and Spuggy from “Byker Grove”’, and if that doesn’t sound enticing to you then I don’t know what will.

Wednesday the 20th – The Autumn Store @ The Victoria, Birmingham – Dance the lindy-hop to some indie-pop.

Thursday the 21st till Saturday the 23rd – “Hit The Baby, Natasha!” (Happiness Patrol) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – A new variation on Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”, with a genuinely fantastic name.

Thursday the 21st – ‘Sublime Frequencies’ tour @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – With Omar Souleyman from Syria and Group Doueh from Western Sahara.

Friday the 22nd – Great Lake Swimmers @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – Lovely mellow Canadian folk-rock. They sound like Crosby Stills & Nash hugging their duvets and yawning melodically.

Friday the 22nd – Subhumans @ The Wagon & Horses, Digbeth, Birmingham – One of the best punk bands ever, kiddo. Apparently this do is a benefit for the Faslane Peace Camp.

Saturday the 23rd and Sunday the 24th – Birmingham Pride 2009 @ Various places in Birmingham city centre – Apparently the largest two-day LGBT event in the UK (any jokes I made here about size being important would be cheap and unnecessary). There’s lots of stuff happening and various stages. The website doesn’t seem to want to say who will be performing on them, but they’ll be there.

Saturday the 23rd – “A Night Of Aural Carnage” (Capsule) @ Vivid, Digbeth, Birmingham – Noise, noise, lots of noise. Prurient are headlining, and Beestung Lips are also on the bill (seeming a bit out of place, unless I’ve massively misjudged the nature of the rest of it).

Saturday the 23rd – Beyonce @ The NIA, Birmingham – Buuuuuuur. Buh buh buh buh buh buuuuuuuuur. Buh buh buh buh buh… ahem. Sorry. Just got the urge to do the horn bit from ‘Crazy In Love’.

Sunday the 24th – Terror @ Busk, Birmingham – Metallic hardcore band more widely remembered for the wit and wisdom of their singer, Scott Vogel.

Sunday the 24th – Hypnotic Brass Ensemble @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Hip hop-influenced brass band aceness. The sad thing (and not to take anything away from Hypnotic) is that finding out about this made me wonder when The Youngblood Brass Band were coming around again, and upon inspection it looks like they’re touring in May but not doing any gigs anywhere near here. Bah.

Tuesday the 26th – Combichrist @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Mentioned mostly due to how weird it looks to see an EBM/industrial/goth-techno/whateverhaveyou band alongside all the tribute acts and trad blues-rockers on the coupon at The Robin. I just have a feeling it’ll turn out hilarious, although I’m not sure why.

Wednesday the 27th & Sunday the 31st – Mahler’s 2nd (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – My favourite symphony, as Mahler would no doubt have been gratified to know.

Friday the 29th and Saturday the 30th – “The Iron Eyelashes” (Imaginary Forces Theatre) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Does your man there pick family in East Berlin, or freedom in the West?

Friday the 29th till Sunday the 31st – “Bach – A Beautiful Mind” @ Town Hall and Symphony Hall, Birmingham – A mini-festival type thing. I’ve mentioned this on here before, but I love Douglas Adams’ quote on J.S. Bach – “When I hear Beethoven I understand what it was like to be Beethoven. When I hear Mozart I understand what it is to be human. When I hear Bach I understand the universe.”

Saturday the 30th and Sunday the 31st – Birmingham “Rat Race” @ various places in Brum but starting in Centenary square, I think – Race about the place in what is apparently “a multi-disciplined challenge of navigation, endurance, skills and guts” requiring participants to “run, climb, mountain bike, kayak, abseil and navigate”. Best of all, it’s set against a “70s skyline”.

Saturday the 30th – The Mighty Diamonds @ The Drum, Newtown, Birmingham – Y’know, the ones that can pronounce ‘Kouchie’.

Sunday the 31st – Mark Steel @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Ah, Mark Steel. One of the highlights of last year was hearing a professional comedian describe my beau as “the most pedantic woman in the Midlands”.

Sunday the 31st – Chrome Hoof @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, BirminghamCapsule finish off a busy five-gig month by hosting the band who really must be the world’s greatest tinfoil-wearing disco-krautrock-metal group, and I don’t throw that sort of praise around lightly. (EDIT: Cancelled~! Boooooo. Still, though, there is a talk from Martin Atkins of Public Image Limited at the H&H that night. It’s free, too).

Catch up catch up catch up

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, Food, Music, Stage by Russ L on 2 March, 2009

So it’s a catch-up post (as ever), stretching back for three months.

The Leonard Cohen gig on the 22nd of November was originally going to be written about in a post entitled “First we take Marston Green, then we take Berlin”. Not a particularly good title, obviously, but it amused me.

To the NEC arena (has/had it not quite finished changing its name to the LG Arena yet, or has/had it? Confused am [were] we) then, stopping en route for a nice drink in Oldbury’s The Railway Inn at this end. We intended to go to the Wetherspoons at Birmingham International but it was actually shut at half six. Blimey.

He might be older than the dirt in Methuselah’s garden, but Lenny Cohen is still hugely charismatic and (I’m told) very sexy in his double-breasted suit and customary hat. He looked a lot older in the brief spells for which the hat came off. Whilst he’s never been known for being the best technical singer (and makes light of that himself), his deep sonorous voice was amazing. Perfect in every way.

His band were fantastic, n’all. Alongside regular collaborator Sharon Robinson, The Webb Sisters were his other two backing singers. They did the standard (I mean ‘standard’ not ‘bad’) pop-stars-band quasi-gospel backing vox, but from a little bit of their own that they got to do towards the end it seems that their own milieu is a lot folkier. Variation, that’s what we like. His Spanish guitar fella was also really good, and definitely added something beyond just technical proficiency.

Highlights abounded. All of it was a highlight, in fact, but if forced to pick a few than I suppose I’d have to pick “Tower of Song” complete with cheap keyboard and attempts to make Sharon laugh, “Hallelujah” obviously (ooh topical) (well, less so now but it was when I first wrote that), “Thousand Kisses Deep” (one I didn’t know before this gig, but the spoken/recited vocals made it a lot better than the sung recorded version I’ve since heard), a bombastic “First We Take Manhattan”, and probably loads more.

This would have been within my top fifteen gigs ever, easily.

Onwards into December. Whenever my Balkan-gypsy-Hammerhorror-PapaLazaru-danceband faves The Destroyers play at big daytime events (Artsfest, Moseley Folk etc) they’re always enjoyed by lots of little kids who obviously can’t go to the night-time gigs (insert the usual rant from me and various other people here: if there are two bands in the local area who are capable of appealing into a wide variety of people then they’re The Destroyers and Modified Toy Orchestra, and the fact that the conventional music industry’s genre-based schema doesn’t have the ability to read this illustrates a lot of what’s wrong with it). They decided, therefore, to make a daytime children’s show: Tweedeleededeedee, Sir Ru Barb and The Green Wolf at Birmingham Town Hall on Saturday the 6th of December. Lovely idea.

Sadly, it was a bit of a mess, although this was the first ever time it was performed there is plenty of chance to improve. We didn’t attend the singalong workshop type’o’thing that came beforehand, but the play itself had lots of nice ideas that seemed slightly badly done. My main advice would be Turn The Bleedin’ Microphones Up, ‘cos then it might be easier to hear what people are saying (also: persuade the dolly-bird/bit-of-fluff lady that the mic is more useful when spoken into, rather than held at waist level). I imagine it was mostly as a result of this communication breakdown that I found it quite difficult to follow at times. Some of the kids in attendance clearly absolutely loved it and were really getting into it/dancing in their seats, but quite a lot more just seemed to get bored and fractious (especially the little git behind us and his even worse parents). Obviously I don’t like kids to begin with and I do realise the foolishness of moaning about children at a children’s show, but I’m sure quite a few of them would have been a lot more attentive and happy if they’d been able to actually follow what was going on.

I hate saying this, because I really love The Destroyers and have a huge amount of goodwill towards anything they do. I’d also certainly never dispute the fact that this was a worthwhile thing to attempt. There were positives: there was some lovely music, I liked the animations, and the idea of a child been born as a mutant solar-powered sentient bicycle is rare genius. Rare, rare genius.

(Contrasting views exist, of course).

A mooch around Brum followed for a few hours, before heading over to The Old Joint Stock for pies. I very much recommend their pies in there.

Pies aside, the pub also has a theatre. We were there that evening for a stage version of Poe’s “Masque Of The Red Death”, courtesy of The Happiness Patrol. This, I thought, was really good. A two-hander (with the audience and a row of mannequin dolls representing the assembled throng), with Philip Hoyman as a silent servant (who managed to say a lot without saying anything), and Gareth Nichols as an incredibly intense Prince Prospero (a great performance – he kept up a large amount vicious paranoia very effectively for a long time). Unlike the story it centred around Prospero’s neurotic contempt for those he thought he was saving, but the whole thing still had a very eerie air, especially the way the different coloured rooms were represented by bathing the set with lights.

It was veeeeeery hot in there, though. Between the air temperature and all the talk of plague and disease I actually started to come over a bit queasy at the start.

(Other folks write here, here, and here).

To J.B’s for the first time in an age on Tuesday the 9th, and it’s as much of a funny ol’ place as ever. It has what is probably the lowest level of soullessness that a 1,000 capacity pop music venue is ever reasonably likely to have, but gigs there tend to be pretty damn expensive on the door and they never seem to advertise much outside of their own website. It’s unsurprising that the turnout for this Municipal Waste gig was poorer than it might have been elsewhere (I recall a lot more people going to see The Waste at the much smaller Flapper the two times that Gazberg put them on there a few years ago).

Ah well. Iron Lung were the tour support, a two piece (drums/vox and guitar) playing a pretty effective style of violent grind with some slow bits and enjoying their first time in ‘Doodley’ (a mispronunciation that seemed to really upset one heckler, even though his own voice sounded scouse). The sound was absolutely perfect for them and really let their stop/start-on-a-sixpence dynamics shine through, whilst the drummer was a nutter but an endearing one. I really enjoyed them for most of their set, although they did go on for a bit longer than might have been the optimum.

Municipal Waste were massive fun (as always) with their “exactly like DRI but no-one seems to mind, least of all me” thrash metal/hardcore crossover business. They don’t take themselves completely seriously,which is always a good thing. The highlights were predictable – “Thrashin’ Of The Christ”, “Terror Shark” and a rendition of “Municipal Waste IGFYU” after having persuaded most of the audience to get up onto the stage. Their re-titling of “I Wanna Kill The President” as “I Wanna Chill With The President” suggests that they’re not 100% living in the past. Maybe.

(Singer Tony described this gig as “a weird ass show” in a recent interview).

Christmas happened next, obviously. Christmas is lovely.

I don’t like Going To The Pictures. I’m a lot better with films in general than I was a couple of years ago, but I’d still much rather watch one at home and I definitely don’t subscribe to the ‘bigger screen is better’ theory. It’ll pass as a general outing now and again (as long as there’s a sufficiently long gap between ‘now’ and ‘again’), though, and so on Saturday the 10th we went to The Electric Cinema to see Slumdog Millionaire. Florence has since decided she feels the same way about picture-houses and so all is well, but we’d both acknowledge that The Electric is a lot better than most. So very loud, though! That can’t be necessary. The fillum itself was ace, I thought; fast-paced and exciting but still thoughtful, with a happy/fairly sentimental ending but not shying away from displaying the horribleness where necessary.

My first gig of the new year took place on Thursday the 22nd of Jan, going to see Buzzcocks at The Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton. Also there was Other Stuff not suited to the maintenance of sanguine temperament, but never mind that.

We went in The Ponderosa first, which was lovely and somewhere I’ll definitely go again. The Lurkers were our supporting artistes for the evening: very Ramones-ish, although perhaps a tiny bit (just a tiny bit) more Oi. Nothing at all new, but I enjoyed them. I especially liked “Come And Reminisce If You Think You’re Old Enough”. Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

Speaking of which… nah, only joking, Buzzcocks were fantastic. You can see the years on Pete Shelley though. They were playing the first two albums in full on this tour (that seems to be becoming increasingly common nowadays) alongside other odds and ends came in the encore (although we did have to leave before the end), and they sound as fresh as ever. The big yet intelligent pop hooks which we all know and love weren’t lost in translation as they gave it a surprising amount of welly. Predictably, the bits I found to be highlights were my favourites anyway – “On Our Own”, “Sixteen”, “Fallen In Love”, and… probably some others, I dunno. Lovely fun.

On Saturday the 24th we headed to the Crescent Theatre for Of Mice And Men, courtesy of their own theatre company. The Crescent can be bloody annoying at times. The bar/stairs/corridor were packed with people beforehand, as people hoping to attend the events in both the main room and the smaller one (where this was) walk in every possible direction in small spaces. At least the interval times seem to be staggered on this occasion, unlike the last time I went.

I’m blessed to have seen the definitive (no really it was) stage version of OMAM at The Rep with Matthew Kelly (no really he was), and it didn’t really surprise me to find that this one wasn’t as good. That’s not to say it was bad, though. Everyone in it seemed a little bit wooden and there was plenty of stumbling over lines, but I don’t want to go over the top with that – the cast did a decent job if not spectacular job. The use of space was very good: Candy (the black character, you’ll recall), for example, was present on stage for most of the time but separated from the rest of the cast in an effective mirror of the way he (and everyone else) are isolated.

(Thoughts on taking some kiddies to see it can be found a few paragraphs down here).

Arriving at The Rainbow to see Gregor Samsa on Monday the 26th (I was lucky to find out about the gig. I’m so out of touch these days…), I saw more stuff packed onto the stage than you often see. It was quite the sight. Saw. See. Sight.

Dream Dreams The Dreamer was our sole support for the evening (gigs with only two acts on the bill seem to increasingly be the standard aroundabout now. I don’t like this tendency) and I really wanted to like him, since I never seem to get much out of that Esquilax circle of bands. Ah well. It started with slow chords and screams reminiscent of some less-distorted version of Khanate, before building up to a maelstrom of wrecked organ sounds, feedback and white noise. Fun as that sounds, it didn’t convey anything to me beyond “I Are Sirius Cat”.

I really enjoy Gregor Samsa’s recent album while it’s playing, but can never remember a note of it afterwards (or, indeed, its title – I’ve just had to look up the fact that it’s called “Rest”. It should be noted that neither of these things are particularly unusual for me, particularly the latter). I’m not sure whether going to see them thus makes more or less sense, given that live music is just a half-recalled moment in time. They sounded absolutely gorgeous, whichever way up. A more song-y/standardly postrock-y Sigur Ros is the overall impression they give on record but live they came across as a more song-y Efterklang, with a very lush sound built from a really effective combination of little subtle things and big broad strokes (that’ll be what all the instruments packing the stage were for. Ah right Ted). The small-ish crowd applauded very enthusiastically at the end.

On top of all that, any band with a Kafka reference for a name will automatically be good. I’m sick of having to tell you this.

To the Old Joint Stock Theatre on Friday the 30th, for a version of Look Back In Anger from BISPA/Birmingham Stage School Showbiz. The play itself was new to me, but I loved it. Most of all it was extremely funny, but also a very good depiction of frustration with staid and archetypal lives.

The performance didn’t seem as good as it perhaps might have been, though. The main and biggest problem was that it was too fast – they galloped through it with nary a pause between hastily delivered sentences. A bit of breathing space really might have helped. A bit more clear enunciation might have been nice, too, Luke Beard’s Alex (a performance influenced by John Cleese, one wonders?) in particular. They’re young, though, and I’m sure it’ll all come with experience (and I sincerely apologise for sounding so patronising with that). Let’s be positive: I did really like Davut-Sebastian Atterbury (what a name) as Colonel Redfern, and I definitely wouldn’t say they were outright bad on the whole. Whichever way up, they definitely sold me on the play. I’d like to see the film now, in fact.

(Reviewed here).

The afternoon of Sunday the 1st of Feb saw me going to a boxing card for the first time since June. Warrior Promotions and First Team had joined forces to promote this extravaganza, and sitting there beforehand waiting for things to start I found myself awash with sensations. Anticipation~! Of what was to come. Amusement~! At The Tower Ballroom’s seriously 70s décor. Dismay~! About the fact that someone had let Terry O’ Conner into the building, and if they’re silly enough to do that they’re probably also silly enough to let him referee some boxing matches.

I’d half-forgotten the “home boxer vs journeyman” nature of local cards. It’s not that I dislike watching those matches, necessarily, but given that it ain’t cheap to get in it’s not what you ideally want. Outside of two matches, the “..and his opponent…” corner didn’t win a single round all afternoon/evening. The two exceptions, happily, were really good fights: Rhys Davies took on Hastings Rasani in one of the best few four-rounders I’ve ever seen (toe-to-toe in an almost literal sense from start to finish. Given that this was only Rhys’ second pro fight it’s also worth saluting the brave matchmaking that led to this) and Tony Randell upset Max Maxwell in a gritty ten-rounder for the Midlands area middleweight title (that result surprised me, but not enough to cry robbery or anything like that. I thought Maxwell had edged it with busier and cleaner work, but I suppose Randell – who looked a hell of a lot better than he did last time I saw him – did land more hurtful-looking shots and he definitely had a big finish).

Never mind all that, though, the important bit: Ring Entrance (and, indeed, Name) Of The Day goes to Quinton Hillocks, who came down to the sound of Soulja Boy whilst wearing a superman cape.

(The BBN report on this card can be read here).

The 6th was the occasion for An Inspector Calls at The Rep, and it was really very good indeed – a reprise of the Stephen Daldry production that apparently was very well received some years ago, and in itself a subtly clever play with more obvious (but still worthwhile) stuff laid over the top. The scenery not only looked great but worked with well with the narrative: their big posh house in the centre functioning as the citadel that they the family are dragged out of as they are forced to think about the world outside of their own immediate gratification. At the end only Sheila and Eric end up outside, being the only two who have learned from the experience. Louis Hilyer’s performance as Inspector Goole was certainly very stylised (I would like to know what the stage directions in the script say in comparison to this), but the cast as a whole were very good (particularly Robin Whiting as Eric. I could imagine him in a lot of Coward/Wilde type things).

(Reviews a-plenty! Try here, there, here, there, here, elsewhere, everywhere, probably other places too…)

On Friday the 13th (ooh scary etc etc) we went to see the absolutely brilliant These Four Streets at The Rep Door. Based around the 2005 riot in Lozells in Birmingham (where the rumour of a rape escalated into argey bargey and resulted in a death), it was poignant but also funny and most of all humane. That it was of local interest also goes without saying. It took the form of a series of vignettes of local life, showing how little things can rise and create tension up to the point where only a spark is needed (whether it’s true or has any basis in reality or not). Some were one-offs and some had recurring characters, with the best being the old Jamaican grandmother comforting the runaway asian child and the genuinely tearjearking kid leaving pizza at his mate’s grave. The whole cast were really strong and showed range in delivering a variety of different characters, but a particular salute should go to Lorna Laidlaw. It’s still touring here and there, and is definitely worth seeing – if there’s anything from this whole post that I’d recommend then it’s this one. (EDIT: Alright, so I’d forgotten about Leonard Cohen when I typed that bit. He ain’t likely to tour in the immediate future, though, whereas I know “These Four Streets” is going to be around and about…)

(This initially seemed under-reviewed, but they’ve poured in since then. Try here, here, here, here, and here).

Woozle very kindly allowed me permission to go out on Saturday the 14th for “Priest Feast” (what a name for a tour. What a dream of a name), and so after being disabused of the notion that it was at the NIA (happily this happened before I set out) I headed off to the NEC/LG/Whatever-Have-You Arena. I am only vaguely familiar with Testament but I did enjoy their set a lot. I do at least know that the main thing you want when you go to see them is air guitar on the mic stand (I suppose that’s not actually air guitar. Stand guitar, if you will), and we got plenty. Great thrashing fun, anyway.

I saw Megadeth at only the second gig I ever attended way back in the September of 1997 (the sound was beyond dreadful but it didn’t bother me: my inexperienced self thought that maybe gigs were just like that at that sort of scale. Also: eleven and a half years ago. Ceiling Cat almighty), but that was then and this is now. They have done a lot of complete and utter tut in their time, but they stuck to the good stuff here and so all was great. “She-Wolf” was dedicated to all the She-Wolves on Valentines Day (aaaaw. How romantic), and the amazing one-two of “Symphony Of Destruction” and “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?” put a massive grin across my face. Dave Mustaine still has a very strange singing voice. He’s still also ginger. I’m sure we wouldn’t have him any other way.

How does one write about the Judas Priest live experience? I suppose the easiest way to sum it all up is that they were what you’d expect in a good way, rather than what you’d expect in a bad way. Thus: ace. Disconnected thoughts would include: Look at Rob Halford there, enjoying himself in his glittery coat; It was a bit of a disappointment that Halfo didn’t initially ride onto the stage on his Harley, but he did that for the encore so all was well. Didn’t hit anything, either; It’s worth noting that The Priest are the first act I’ve seen since Usher to use a hydraulic lift on stage: All (well, most) of your big singalong faves were played – Breaking The Law, Electric Eye, Rock Hard Ride Free, Another Thing Comin’; Painkiller was absolutely shredding; That first one they played from the new album (“I Am Nostradamus”?) sounded fun, too; Priest~!

Right, that’ll do us for the time being. There’s been a big London trip and another boxing do since then, but they can wait for the moment.

Heritage not hate

Posted in Food, Modern Living, Music by Russ L on 24 November, 2008

(Or “A post linking different things in a very tenuous way”.)

We went to the Black Country Museum on (remember remember) Wednesday the Fifth of November. The initial plan was just to go for the evening bonfire (in honour of this country’s annual Catholic-burning ceremony, naturally), but we decided to pop over during the day too.

It’d been many-a-year since the last time I’d been there, but I love the place. Some folk would find it boring, but then again some folk are boring. ‘Museum’ is perhaps misleading – it’s a huge park-type-thing with restored buildings from The Olden Days, allowing you to actually walk through them and see how things once were. I do love that sort of social history lark. There’s also a pub, kept as 1909-authentic as possible. Louise asked for vodka & coke. I tried not to snigger at her as the barmaid explained that neither thing was in regular supply in the Dudley of the time.

Between going in the afternoon and returning for the bonfire, we visited a few pubs in Tipton. I mention this mostly because that genuinely is another important part of local heritage. In The Fountain I learned for the first time of the existence of the 19th century bare-knuckle boxer William “The Tipton Slasher” Perry, and now I really am intrigued; in Mad O’Rourkes Pie Factory I learned that they don’t actually start serving food until 6pm. We’re gonna have to go back, though. Two-for-the-price-of-one on pies on Wednesdays can’t be argued with.

Local heritage of a very different kind was illuminated by Capsule’s “Home Of Metal” thing the following night. Irrespective of whether you like or dislike heavy and/or metal (or even – shock horror – decide whether you think bands are good or not by actually listening to them instead of just reading the genre name), most areas of the Earth justifiably tend to shout from the rooftops if the roots of a style of popular music grew there. This is not the case with our ever-diffident regions of Birmingham and the Black Country. Capsule want to make it a bit more visible and are starting their campaign by having open days at local museums, at which people can donate memorabilia to form the beginnings of an archive.

I hadn’t been to any of them, but then again I don’t actually have anything to donate. I was more than keen to turn up for the evening of the 6th of November one at New Art Gallery in Walsall, though, as Einstellung were playing a set ‘inspired by Black Sabbath’ for free. I didn’t finish work till eight, but happily the gallery is less than five minutes from my place of work. I could already hear them thundering away as I walked down Park Street.

I got there to see that they’d expanded around the middle, with some Mistress members joining them. I’m not completely sure howso it was meant to be Sabbath inspired: they did have a more metallic texture than usual (what with the extra guitars ‘n’ such), but still sounded like themselves. Their repeat-repeat-repeat rising Krautrock groove is not a bad way to sound, though. It’s a good way to sound. I might even go so far as saying it’s a very good way to sound.

Also: I avoided being silly with the free wine that was available, so hurrah for me.

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands: February ’08

Posted in Combat Sports, LOTTSADITWM, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 27 January, 2008

More stuff this month, at least. Still mostly gigs, but there seems to be a decent chunk of theatre 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.

Friday the 1st – “Things That Can’t Be Said” (Re:Volve Theatre) @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A multimedia sort of thing exploring what (supposedly) cannot be said and creating “a visual tapestry of love, life and relationships.” Also at The Arena Theatre in Wolves on Wednesday the 6th.

Saturday the 2nd – Babar Luck @ The Little Civic, Wolverhampton – Completely looney but massively uplifting choons from the ex-King Prawn fella. Gangsta Folk, if you will.

Sunday the 3rd – Municipal Waste @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Ther-rrraaaassshhh. Possibly the worst venue in which you could ever manage to see The Waste, but still.

Sunday the 3rd – Carmina Burana (CBSO & Choruses) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – You can go either as a punter, or you can actually become part of the ensemble and sing. I think that’s fantastic.

Sunday the 3rd – It’s Just Noise Halfdayer @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – Starting at 5:30pm and featuring Blakfish, The Arm, Mills & Boon and many other delights.

Friday the 8th – Dropkick Murphys @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Oi Oi Oirish.

Friday the 8th – KODO @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Here come the drums here come the drums.

Saturday the 9th – The Move @ J.B.’s, Dudley – Or the current touring version of The Move, anyway. Apparently Bev Bevan and Trevor Burton are amongst their number, but Roy Wood isn’t.

Saturday the 9th – Reanimator metal night @ The Bristol Pear, Selly Oak, Birmingham – Birmingham’s main extreme metal put-er on-ers bring you this night, headlined by German thrashsorts Nocturnal.

Saturday The 9th – Authority To Pay Recordings night @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Courtesy o’ Capsule, headlined by Fuck Buttons. It seems strange to get so angry about confectionary.

Monday the 11th – Earth @ The Medicine Bar, The Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham – In the field of drone-rock, it is not cosmologically incorrect to say that the Earth is older than the Sunn O))). Hyuck hyuck hyuck har har har.

Wednesday the 13th – The Twang @ J.B.’s, Dudley – There would have been some sort of trope here based around “Hang the DJ/Twang The J.B.’s”, but I decided I love you all too much to subject you to something quite so feeble.

Tuesday the 19th – Storytelling Café @ Wednesbury Library, Wednesbury – Tell some stories. Also at the Kitchen Garden Café in Kings Heath the following night, and that one will apparently have an Irish theme.

Tuesday the 19th – “Bacchic” (Actors Of Dionysus) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – ‘The Bacchae’ with aerial theatre (does that mean trapeze?), specially composed music and ‘inspired’ lighting. Sounds interesting at the very least.

Wednesday the 20th – Dillinger Escape Plan @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – This is the one that was originally due to be on the 5th of November and may or may not have been originally due to also feature Meshuggah (it isn’t now). I suppose, as creators of mad fractured music, it seems apt that their gigs have mad fractured arrangements.

Wednesday the 20th to Saturday the 23rd – “Angel House” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – How two brothers lives can take very different paths. Written by the highly respected Roy Williams.

Wednesday the 20th to Saturday the 1st of March – Birmingham School Of Acting: Spring 2008 season @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Four different plays over a week and a bit. Including “Prince Pippin’s quest to find personal significance.”

Thursday the 21st to Saturday the 23rd – “Waitress For Godot” @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – The Old Joint Stock’s resident theatre company re-lick the obvious Beckett play from a female perspective, involving two women waiting for Estragon and Vladimir. Intriguing.

Friday the 22nd – Megadeth @ The Academy, Birmingham – The ‘Wow, they’re still going! Who knew?’ option for this month.

Sunday the 24th – ISKA International Thaiboxing @ Wombourne Leisure Centre, Wombourne, Wolverhampton – No details or proper link, as ever.

Monday the 25th – Boxing (Pat Cowdell) @ The Burlington Hotel, Birmingham – Usual drill: dinner show, I’ve no idea who might be fighting, etc, etc.

Tuesday the 26th – Mayhem @ The Barfly, Digbeth, BirminghamDon’t approach any of them and ask them if they’re pining for the fjords. Someone I know did this last time they were over here, and they had him ejected from the premises (more things happened but they may be libelous to relate). I’m not joking, this is a true story. Anyway, unholy black metal and so on.

Tuesday the 26th – Eels @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – That recent BBC4 documentary about Mark E Of The Eels’ rediscovery of his grandfather (Hugh Everett III) and his ‘Many Worlds’ interpretation of quantum mechanics was really good. Ben Swizzle writes about it here. On that note, I’m currently reading Quantum – A Guide For The Perplexed by Jim Al-Khalili and would recommend it to all, explaining (as it does) things very well to simpletons like me as well as being beautifully illustrated. I’m off on a bit of a tangent here, but since this gig is already sold out I expect you won’t mind.

Tuesday the 26th – Rolo Tomassi @ The Little Civic, Wolverhampton – Supporting I Was A Cub Scout, who I once saw supporting Rolo Tomassi (funnily enough) but didn’t think were anything particularly special.

Tuesday the 26th to Saturday the 1st of March – ‘Metamorphosis (Vesturport Theatre) @ The Rep, Birmingham – I’m reeeally looking forward to this: a staged version of the Kafka short story with a score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Get Carina Round and some jalapeno peppers involved somehow and this would include pretty much everything I love in the world.

Wednesday the 27th – “Here Be Monsters” (Rejects Revenge) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – The world’s first steam-powered spaceship, and apparently lots of silliness. Sounds like fun to me. I can’t help be thinking of Werewolves and Queen Victoria, though, getahmean?

Thursday the 28th – Alicia Keys @ The NIA, Birmingham – She wasn’t all that great when I saw her a few years back (well… she’s not the sort of artist you want to have to grin and bare onstage skits from, is she?), but I would assume that by now she has enough material to fill a set without arseing about pretending to take phonecalls from a prop phonebox. And that’d be quite good.

Thursday the 28th – Boxing (First Team Promotions) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Black Country vs Birmingham derby! Matty Hough takes on Max Maxwell for the Midlands area middleweight title, and it will be great. Also featuring some of our other local faves like Lyndsey Scragg, Rob Hunt, Dean Harrison, etc.

Friday the 29th – Editors @ The NIA, Birmingham – And so you’d better not make any spelling mistakes.

Friday the 29th – Fairport Convention @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – It’ll never be said in fair England that I slew a naked man, either.