Call me Russ L

From wagons and horses to modern-day flyovers

Posted in Modern Living, Music by Russ L on 30 August, 2011

Writing about things that I’ve done! There’s a thing that I could do. Y’know, to alleviate the boredom. That thought occurred to me after the two gigs I went to a couple of weekends ago, and the of course I scrawled some notes and left ‘em for a bit. As ever. At least this isn’t as long as usual, I suppose.

The first was on Friday the 19th at The Wagon & Horses in Digberf, and to my surprise it was actually outside (in their covered-over beer garden/courtyard/thing). I was aware that there were sometimes outside gigs at the DoubleYooAndAitch, but I’d never actually been to one before and I’d assumed that this was would be in the usual upstairs room. It was also apparently in aid of the Ideal Skate Shop, which got hit in the looting. I know nothing about them or their ways, but it’s difficult to imagine that they might have been a deserving target. The gig was fun, I enjoyed it – some sloppy-drunk local-character-types contributed to a bit of hilarity beyond that which the bands provided (it’s always funny till someone gets hurt etc. etc.).

Sadly, that lovely little whippet-y/greyhound-y dog (who I’ve seen at most of the W&H gigs I’ve been to before) wasn’t around. Bless her little heart and her attempts to obtain food from everyone present.

The outdoors-but-with-something-overhead vibe continued on Saturday the 20th, with Soweto Kinch’s annual (although not fixed – there have been four so far, and they’ve taken place in May/June/May/August) Hockley Flyover Show. Under-the-flyover is still the best possible venue for this sort of thing and even beyond that, This Was Important. After all of this recent riot palava it is an unequivocally good thing to show that people of different ages and ethnic backgrounds can spend an afternoon and evening amongst each other without any trouble at all. Most folks will not be surprised by this thought at all, but then again some folks would and they often tend to be the ones with the loudest mouths.

The highlights of the weekend (in terms of actual bands/acts/artistes, and defined in the traditional fashion as being better than “I quite liked ‘em”), then:

Stinky Wizzleteat – It seems that they’re a two piece band nowadays, which I didn’t know beforehand. Great fun – guitar and drums playing jagged bits of thrash riffs over grooving drum patterns.

Drunk In Hell – A total wall of rocking. What they play could loosely be described as noise-rock, but far more importantly they’re horrific yet grooving in a way that reminds me a bit of how Mistress used to be (although sounding different). I had to leave halfway through though, sadly, because of the ever-creeping degree to which Birmingham gigs are for Birmingham people, time-wise.

Julian Joseph – A pianist, who started on his own before being joined by Soweto and then by the rest of the band. The first (solo) piece was absolutely amazing – pulsing menace from the low end, overlaid by acrobatic space travel from the high end.

Soweto himself – Obviously great and salute-able for putting the whole thing on, but his freestyle game (people shout out words starting with every letter of “Flyover”, prior to him coming up a rap about them) was also massive fun.

Baba Israel – The tracks that he’d emailed through beforehand (I wondered how that worked – the house band all seem to know everyone’s songs) apparently didn’t get there. This worked out brilliantly in the long run – we had a great spontaneous feel as he gave out beatboxing for the band to improvise around. He also had fantastically agile vocals, and (oh yes) a didgeridoo. Didge! Didgeridoo hip-hop is definitely something that the world needs to produce more of.

Goldie’s Band – I had no idea about all any of this beforehand, but it seems that Goldie recently had a telly series in which he (assisted by our own Soweto, Ms Dynamite, Cerys Catatonia and others) gathered a bunch of young ‘uns from around the country and made a band out of ‘em. There were only half of them here for this but they were ace nevertheless – awesomely grooving instrumental-jam stuff, markedly different to everything else on the bill. I’d seen Will Pound before (as part of Dan Walsh & Will Pound at last year’s Moseley Folk Festival), and I’m happy to report that his harmonica on the song they called “Turkish Delight” was amazing, combining the bluesyness with hookah-scented ethereality. I may have just made that word up.

Akala – Possibly the best hip-hop set I’ve ever seen, and I’m not joking with that. He started with a long Acapella filled with wisdom (you can see most of it here, but please let me know if you find the whole thing anywhere online) (EDIT: it was Fire In The Booth and you really should listen to it in full), and realistically that was so good it would have been enough on its own. There was more, though, and good it was too: Paul Gladstone Reid joined him on one for piano, the band really hit a funk mark at times, and the righteous fury really shone through during “Yours And My Children”. I have seen Akala before a couple of times before and thought “I’ve got to check him out properly”, but… well, this time I really really really must.

Also: bigup to the fella at The Flyover Show who was wearing a T-shirt with Nye Bevan on the front. That is genuinely righteous.

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Let’s get the rest of last year out of the way

Posted in Do Not Use These Companies, Music, Stage by Russ L on 10 January, 2011

A post in which I chronicle my 2010 doings between Supersonic and the end of the year. Mostly gigs, but not entirely.

28/10/10 – To the crappy-but-not-as-bad-as-the-old-one Academy 2, Batman. The impact that Rolo Tomassi have live often seems to vary pretty widely, and this one was somewhere in the middle. They had their gentle mellow bits that sound like sitting on the lawn in a nice garden and followed them with the chop’n’change dagga-dagga-graargh bits that sound like the outside of a building falling down the flight of stairs inside it like some kind of M.C. Escher bidnizz blah blah blah run-on-sentence to sound breathless. ‘Cos that’s a bit what their music would be like if it was a linguistic construction: confusing and silly and not really anywhere near as clever as the author would like, but fun nevertheless.

Unrealistic expectations always turn out to be a bugger, and in this instance I had the archetypal “thinking that a band are something other than what they actually are”. I used to really like The Dillinger Escape Plan and I saw ‘em a couple of times back in the day, but I’d not really kept up with them and prior to the week before this gig I’d never listened to any recorded stuff outside of the “Calculating Infinity” LP. Upon finally having a go with some more recent material, I found out that they’ve acquired some really unconvincing-sounding melodic choruses from somewhere. I don’t think this suits them one little bit, although I may keep listening to see if a figurative penny drops. This new-found but actually-old side of them particularly failed to work at this gig, for me – the headfork that I want from TDEP shined through at times, but a lot of it seemed akin to bad teen-angst singy metalcore. I left before they finished.

It’s probably mostly my own fault, what with the aforementioned unrealistic expectations and all. Lots of other folks seemed to absolutely adore this gig. I’m not dismissing them entirely and I will keep trying, as I said.

On the plus side, it seems that they now have a song called “Gold Teeth On A Bum”. Just imagine the downright delightful American-English-into-actual-English based misunderstandings to be had. “La, good sir!” trilled Emma Darlington-Smythe, as she coquettishly fluttered her fan; “It would be inappropriate for a young lady in my position to allow you to bite me on the arse, even with such a well-appointed gob.”

31/10/10 – It was off to the The Bunny ‘n’ Bow-wow in Kings Heath on the 31st. First on were Tempting Rosie – pop-rock come ska-punk, initially leaving me unconvinced but by the time they’d finished I’d ended up thinking they weren’t without their charms. I recall thinking either that their slower/dubbier bits were a fair bit better than their more up-tempo bits, or possibly the other way round. It was months ago now, I forget.

“It’s so myoooosical” cooed one overheard punter during the Youngblood Brass Band’s set, and yes indeed it certainly was music. Really really good music, though, even better than I remember them being when I saw them at The Barfly back in the day. They call it Riot Jazz, brass a-plenty groovy stuff with rapping and percussion. Amazing. Mostly, though, I would like to talk about the sousaphone. This is surely the best instrument going and I would really like to see it used more frequently. Soooooousaphone~! There were a few brass-taking-the-place-of-everything covers – (I recall “Bad” and “Ain’t Nobody”), and I will never get tired of that horn-imitating-scratching bit.

A fantastic set. I hope they come back over soon.

13/11/10 – My first visit to The Asylum’s smaller room, the inventively named Asylum 2. It’s tacky, but there you go. We need venues.

Alunah did some stock stoner rock stuff, and I wasn’t enormously keen. On the plus side they did have some likeable riffs here and there, and I thought the authentic Cream-ish guitar tone was great. Selfless’ metallic punk/grind was fun, and Dunc’s pissed between-song banter was even more so. This is probably what I wanted from Fukpig a few weeks before at Supersonic, although the thought occurs that it’s also possibly what I might have got from Fukpig if I’d seen them in a small venue.

Sally – Doooooooooooooom. Not as loud as I remember them being back in the olden days (although who knows), but still: dooooooooooooooooom.

20/11/10 – The A.E. Harris Building in The Jewellery Quarter, for Birmingham Opera Company performance of Stravinsky’s “The Wedding”. “Absolute Sensory Overload” would appear to be the phrase I’m looking for.

The music almost seemed like a faint and distant background note to support one million billion squillion brides and grooms rushing all around you in every possible direction, singing and dancing and doing some very unlikely things. It’s be impossible to describe even if it hadn’t already been impossible to see more than a tiny fraction of, taking place all over the entire factory as it did. Seeing breakdancing done to a different rhythm to the music you can here is strangely disorienting in general, never mind seeing it done by someone dressed in a groom’s wedding suit. There were somersaults. There was a bride getting taped into a small cardboard box. There was a groom doing a headstand in a bucket, and that was before things started.

Sensory overload, as I say. That’s a good thing, if you ask me, as is the Birmingham Opera Company. I hope they go back to doing a full-scale full-dress epic next year, though.

21/11/10 – There was another dugong (also known as a manatee/matinee) courtesy of Eat A Book Records at Digbeth’s The Wagon ‘n’ ‘Osses, and I’d like to voice my approval once more of daytime gigs. Daytime gigs are A Good Thing. I do think that maybe after two of these particular ones (there was one the previous month too, look) the novelty may be wearing off ever-so-slightly and so I’m might be a square and look to see if I actually like any of the bands next time, but that’s my own problem – daytime gigs are great. At weekends, anyway. It’s just like going down the drinker in the afternoon, only there are bands as well.

This one was bolstered by the presence of a lovely doggy, wandering around and giving big mournful eyes to anyone with a bag of crisps. I think she was a greyhound (it seems a bit nutty to be able to have a greyhound with brown and darker brown tiger-y stripes, but there you go. She may have been a whippet, actually. For someone who has been to Crufts twice, I certainly am crap at identifying dogs). I was initially concerned that the noise might not be good for a pooch, but she didn’t seem in the least bit bothered. I’d dare you to try and name a single activity that wouldn’t be improved by having an animal to fuss, and so it went here.

There were some bands, too, dull as that may seem in comparison to Dog News. Crash Night did a two-piece (guitar/vox and drums) doom-turning-to-grindy-bits thing for their short set, and it was quite fun. The lack of bass robbed the slower bits of a bit of impact but worked well for creating a shrill violent sound during the speedier bits (DIGRESSION: I mention this mostly because it led me to wonder about my own conditioned responses. Why should slowmetalz have to be bassier/heavier/weightier? I do not have a reason, but felt this nevertheless. Perhaps I should have to go through a deprogramming process) and the two-tone siren feedback between songs was an interesting change from the usual “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” noise. Bird Calls were doing an 80s emo/Dischord Embrace/Rites Of Spring lark, which was decent enough. They lose points for not having any actual bird calls during their set (set yourself up against Little Sister and you’re bound to fail), but gain them for having one nimble-fingered motherfaxer of a bass player, and then lose some again as a result of him doing the bass-strung-up-high-as-though-you’re-trying-to-cover-an-imaginary-exposed-nipple thing. I’ve never been able to approve of that, visually speaking. I nevertheless found them enjoyable at the time.

Things got more Welsh thereon, and Harbour (Dag Nasty seems to be the usual comparison for them, which I can sort-of see although they’re a lot shoutier than all that) suffered from a lot of technical difficulties. I don’t think I’d have liked them as much as I did last time even if that hadn’t been the case, though. Facel Vega, lastly, were the band of the day even with a stand-in drummer. They also played 80s emo-indie-punk stuff, but less obviously homage-y than Bird Calls and a lot more energetic and enervated.

4/12/10 – Although I’d never been to one before this, (secular) gigs in churches seem to be becoming quite a bit more common of late. This was at St Paul’s in the Jewellery Quarter and – contrary to the predictions of several eminent theologians – I didn’t burst into flame upon entering.

St Pauls is Anglican, anyway, so it’s not like it’s a proper church.

Oh my days, there’s nothing more fun than pretending to be sectarian.

Boat To Row were on first, and turned out to be (I think) a version of Bronze Medals reinforced by extra members for the purposes of playing some pure-and-chaste-sounding 60s-ish folk-rock. Pleasant enough, too, I liked them. I have a vague memory that they possibly had some lyrics worth lyricising with, judging by the odd line here and there that is always the most I can ever make out live.

I liked the choral carols played as a between-bands-tape, that was good. I didn’t actually know that mince pies were being sold in the corner in the dead time, but I would’ve definitely partaken if I had. Anyone who knows me knows how much I like a mince pie.

I may be (well, there’s no ‘may be’, I am) applying some stupid stereotypes, but I think that one of the things that makes Goodnight Lenin so very appealing is that they simultaneously appear both older than their years and bursting with youthity youth. They do tap into a vein of good ol’ fashioned classic songwriting, which I (unfairly) associate with the older gentleman, but still have plenty of enthusiastic smart-arsed cheekiness, which seems to accord with their freshness of face . They’ve been written about a fair bit on the local blogs and whatnot (by me too, of course. Y’all know this sumbidge always tries to hop on the bandwagon. Before finding that Birmingham Tours have replaced the bandwagon with a moped. I’m getting ahead of myself, we’ll come back to that in a minute), and so the pattern of What One Says About Goodnight Lenin has emerged and I am duty-bound to follow: first I say that they play 70s stylee folk-rock of the American West Coast type o’ style and then I say that they’re probably going to be really famous, for whatever good that’ll do ‘em. Highlights: “Wencelas Square”, as ever (it’s quite the example of a song), and obviously a church made a good venue for them to have a stab at a genuinely acoustic bit with no microphones. There’s got to be a Lenin/religion joke in here somewhere, but I’m tired. So tired.

10/12/10 – A poor show from Birmingham Tours, who’d advertised an open-top bus trip around Brum’s Christmas lights, but decided to swap it for an ordinary non-open-topped bus due to there having been bad weather earlier in the week. I think it’s pretty bad that they didn’t warn people about this, given that we’d all ordered tickets and thus had to leave contact details and that the lack of roof was obviously the main attraction (come on now, no-one would seriously expect all that much from Birmingham’s Christmas lights themselves), and quite a few people didn’t seem too happy about it. I did learn a few facts from the tour guide’s narration, and even warmed to his Alan Partridge/local radio presenter-ish manner after a while, but this wasn’t what we were after. I’m really not sure about Birmingham Tours henceforth. Watch out if they ever advertise some sightseeing by horse-drawn carriage, ‘cos they’ll probably stick you in the back of a transit van.

17/12/10 – My first trip to Digbeth’s new The Institute, the venue currently occupying the building that in my times was The Sanctuary and The Barfly but has previously been a different The Institute, Digbeth Civic Hall, a Methodist church, and no doubt a squintillion other things. No Less Than Martha Reeves And The Vandellas were in the former Barfly room, nowadays called “The Library”. For some reason. It looks considerably spruced up compared to how it did as The Barfly, and the fact that there are now two bars in there is a huge improvement (although I can imagine that their placement at the sides will make ‘em pretty hard to get at if the place gets really busy).

After a wait of about a hundred years, No Less Than Martha Reeves And The Vandellas took to the stage. I had heard horror stories about the present-day state of her voice, but although it’s nowhere near what it once was I’m happy to say that it’s also nowhere near as bad as you might have heard. She actually sounds a teensy bit like Tina Turner now that she’s a touch croakier, oddly enough. Problems came more from the backing band than from the vocals – Martha proclaimed them the best musicians she’d ever worked with (I bet she says that to all the boys), but their generic schmoov arrangements didn’t appeal for these songs. The original records have energy, damnit. There was no brass to be found in the backing here, in either the “bold as…” sense or the “them articles what yow blow down” senses.

I don’t want to sound too negative, though, since Martha’s a lovely charismatic figure, and even with the instrumentation getting on my wick these songs inspire such enormous feelings of happiness. “Nowhere To Run”, “Jimmy Mack”, “Heatwave”, “Dancing In The Streets”, “Third Finger Left Hand”, you name ‘em, there’s a massive amount of fun to be had. I also loved the old-lady-dance-moves.

25/12/10 – Then there was Christmas. I always love Christmas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s easier than flying under

Posted in Music by Russ L on 9 June, 2010

Hooray, hooray I say, for Soweto Kinch’s annual Flyover Show, and the ace urban larks it provides under Hockley flyover every time out. This year (on the 29th of May) it was rainy but that’s OK. There’s an A-Road for a roof.

Highlights there were and highlights I shall mention: Michaela The Poet – Probably my favourite act of the day with her two hilarious poems, although I wish we’d had more (that’s still the main trouble with this thing, nobody gets a decent-length set. That can be my excuse as to why I haven’t got much to say here, at least); Eska – My favourite musical act of the day, playing extremely high energy jazz that incorporated both British and African-ish folksy inflections; Ms Dynamite (-ee-hee) (that seems to be obligatory) – Getting back to her garage roots nowadays, and presumably due for critical re-appraisal now that she’s past the first two parts of that common mainstream-opinion trajectory of Best Thing Ever/Worst Thing Ever/Quite Good; Janet Kay – Oh you do know her, the lovers rock lady of “Foolish Games” fame. She’s younger than I expected (it’s not important, it was just surprising), and can still get the high notes (and how highly high these high notes are); Speech DeBelle – I’ll always have sympathy for Speechy D after the large amount of openly racist bullspit that followed her winning the Mercury Music prize. It’s a happy co-incidence that I enjoy her jazzy neurotic-hop too; Roxxxann – Thick, murky swampy bass topped with extremely confident rapping (also: I cannot help but love someone who spends quite so long moaning about their rival MC in a two song set. Also also: excellent hair); Breakin’ – There was some genuinely fantastic and fun-to-watch breakdancing going on just before all the action on the main stage started. The little ‘uns having a go were adorable; Special Brew from the off-license over the road – I got as drunk as any man has ever been.

Again again again next one please.

(The Flyover Show website has tonnes of photos and audio and video and such from the actual day; other than that, though, there seem to be surprisingly few folk discussing it on the interwebnets. I’ve come across this, this and this, but I thought there’d be loads).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday the 29th – Slayer @ The Academy, BirminghamSLAYAAARRRGH

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

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

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

Eyelikekittens

Posted in Music by Russ L on 29 April, 2010

Doy. I was intending to get out to a few more gigs this month, but clearly I have failed. Some of this was a result of cancellations beyond my control, but more of it was simply my uselessness.

Still: Glen Campbell soon. He is the best.

I did go to one on Friday the 9th, put-on-ified by Capsule and headlined by a band whose name serves as a perfect example of just how bright your correspondent is – it took me a few years to realise that the band name Eyehategod was a phononym of “I Hate God”. Durr. Those few years passed before I’d ever heard it said out loud, and it just didn’t click. I actually still prefer to think of it as a vaguely mysterious-sounding juxtaposition of words rather than teenager-style pop-theology (or metal-theology. Arf).

To The Asylum, then, and on my third attempt at it I still find it a strange ol’ place. A big-shed-venue sort of affair, happily cheaper and less impersonal than most big-shed-venues but unhappily using barstaff that really would benefit from a bit more training (in the customary big-shed-venue fashion). It’s tacky in a “We Am Metalz” sort of way, albeit nowhere near as bad as Eddies.

I arrived in time for Totimoshi, who were a much calmer cross between Shellac and The Jesus Lizard with the addition of a few vaguely Eastern sounding guitar lines (Eastern, y’know. Like Norwich or something) and some funny time signatures here and there. Alright, if nothing astonishing. They’re a disparate looking bunch, to say the least – the bassist was a tough veteran rock goddess, the singer/guitarist was a likeness of Javier Bardem in “No Country For Old Men” before someone took a bowl and scissors to him, and the drummer was just this nondescript bloke.

Eyehategod are thought of as legends by the sort of people who’d think of them as legends, although in this case that select group includes me. Serious, serious Don Dada business: like an outlaw Dixie Sabbath being pushed face-first through a cheese grater, or similar, in a good way, and so forth. This was an ordinary gig in the middle of an ordinary tour (albeit the tour of a band who haven’t been over here all that much), but when thinking about it in the run-up it still felt like I was anticipating something a bit special.

It didn’t disappoint when the time came, and the more I think about it the more I realise that one of my favourite things in the world is for stuff to not disappoint when the time comes. Just imagine if everything was like that. EHG were by turns rollicking and pummelling, and if they didn’t quite summon up that sick turn-of-the-withdrawal-screw air that they often have on record they did sometimes hint at it (at the time I thought that the masses of folks in the crowd chanting “Eye! Hate! God!” – as though they were at a Britney gig or a Metallica gig or summat – seemed a bit bizarre, but I suppose if we’re reading them as Partyhardhategod for the purposes of this then it isn’t quite as incongruent). I’m more than willing to distrust anyone who memorises EHG song titles so I can’t help you there, but they did most of those riffs that I love. Mike Williams (I understand that’s what his momma calls him) was a great drunk-on-the-bus-stylee frontman, and the rest of the band gave it some serious welly in a way that seemed outwardly loose-and-lazy but never failed to turn on a sixpence. They had that indefinable raw power that some bands just have and most bands just don’t have. They, I might vouch without fear of contradiction, rocked.

I’m very sad I missed this happening outside, though.

(There’s another retelling of the tale here).

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

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

April: expect showers.

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 2nd – J.S. Bach’s “St John Passion” (Ex-Cathedra) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The do on Good Friday is normally the St Matthew Passion, so here we see a change.

Friday the 2nd – Suffocation @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Grrrrrrrrmetalz.

Tuesday the 6th – Cerys Matthews @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – I did not have the slightest idea that she was still going/alive. Very tenacious, these Welsh.

Tuesday the 6th – Ultravox @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – It always sounded to me like more of a curse. Y’know, sort of “Oh… Vienna!” when you drop something or stub your toe.

Thursday the 8th – “Speak up” @ The Hare And Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – An evening of spoken word/poetry (with some music as well), involving Polar Bear, Dreadlockalien, Jodi Ann Bickley and others.

Friday the 9th – Eyehategod @ The Asylum, Hockley, Birmingham – Sludgier than the day after a snowstorm.

Saturday the 10th – Plan B @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – He once got knocked out by Micky Smith. I saw it in a fillum.

Saturday the 10th – Waterson:Carthy @ The Red Lion, Kings Heath, Birmingham – The mafia of modern English folk, as this fella at work describes them. More Martin Carthy-related fun can be had on the 17th, when Brass Monkey play at the Newhampton Arts Centre in Wolves.

Sunday the 11th – “Unknown Pleasures” @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – The start of a spoken word tour in which Howard Marks will interview Peter Hook about Joy Division, New Order, The Hacienda, cotton mills etc.

Tuesday the 13th – Whitney Houston @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – She may always love you but she does want to dance with somebody.

Wednesday the 14th – Humcrush @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – A mix, apparently, of “oriental theatre music, electronica, rock and free jazz”. Some people consider ‘oriental’ to be a slur, y’know, just saying.

Thursday the 15th – Ricky Tomlinson’s Laughter Show @ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – That “workshop” anecdote in his autobiography tickled me very much. Apparently he’s in character as Jim Royal for this.

Friday the 16th – Dropkick Murphys @ The Academy, Birmingham – Too-ra-loo-ra-OI-OI-OI.

Friday the 16th – “You’re A Sister” @ The Victoria, Birmingham – Benefit for Oxfam’s Sisters On The Planet, with various lady-fronted bands and Atta Girl DJs.

Sunday the 18th – Horace Andy @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – “Skylarking” is probably the most Tory song that I really especially like.

Monday the 19th until Saturday the 15th of May – Birmingham International Dance Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Possibly including (but probably not limited to) the mashed potato and the hully-gully. There’s a calendar of events here.

Monday the 19th – Rolo Tomassi @ The Flapper, Birmingham – Also: they’re doing another singles club this year, which was pretty cool last time.

Tuesday the 20th till Saturday the 24th – “Oh, What A Lovely War” (Joan Littlewood’s Musical Entertainment) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – Apparently the first production in Britain since the Iraq war started.

Tuesday the 20th – Reef @ The Academy, Birmingham – Another one for the Whodathunk They Were Still Alive files.

Wednesday the 21st till Saturday the 24th – “Under Milk Wood” (Stage 2) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Given that it’s St Georgio’s month, there doesn’t half seem to be a lot of Welsh going on.

Thursday the 22nd until Saturday the 8th of May – “Respect” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Co.) @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – Ar ee ess pee ee see tee, find out what it means to me. Lutz Hübner’s play, based on a true story of an honour killing and formerly banned in Choimany.

Thursday the 22nd – “The Habit Of Art” (NT Live) @ The Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry – The gist of this seems to be that Alan Bennett’s “The Habit Of Art” is being performed at The National Theatre in London, but being broadcast live to various cinema screens worldwide (including the one at the Warwick Arts Centre). It’s like both a play and a film, then, although really a film of a play rather than a play. There’s a repeat on the 24th, but obviously that won’t be live.

Friday the 23rd – Boxing (Maloney Promotions) @ The Skydome, Coventry – Featuring Leicester’s fighting binman Rendall Munroe, Olympic medallist Tony Jeffries, Stone Cross’ one-and-only Young Mutley, and a whole bunch of others.

Friday the 23rd – Toyah @ The Asylum, Hockley, Birmingham – It’s a mystery, it’s a mystery. I’m given to understand that she’s still searching for a clue.

Saturday the 24th – St George’s Day celebrations @ various places in Birmingham (well, everywhere else too probably) – A stage with bands and whatnot in Victoria Square, a battle between Saxons and Vikings (oh yes) in Chamberlain Square, and a concert in Symphony Hall (no idea what they’re playing, but it is compered by Carl Chinn). There are, as I say, probably lots of other things going on all over the place too. There’s medieval armour and weaponry in the Cornbow Centre in Halesowen, for example.

Saturday the 24th – Fizzpop’s theremin day @ The Edge, Digbeth, Birmingham – Lessons in how to build your own theremin in the afternoon, and then performances with them in the evening.

Saturday the 24th – Karma To Burn @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Instrumental hard rockers. Further proof (pfah, as it if it was needed) that “Frankenstein” by The Edgar Winter Group is probably the single largest influence on modern heavy music.

Tuesday the 27th and Thursday the 29th – Shostakovich’s 4th (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The one from after he was in trouble but before he (cough) ‘apologised’.

Tuesday the 27th – Candi Staton @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Run free, young hearts.

Tuesday the 27th – Three Trapped Tigers @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Poor little flowers. Free the carceral cat crew!

Thursday the 29th – Ian McEwan @ The Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry – A talk with that there acclaimed authorman.

Friday the 30th – Glen Campbell @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Layin’ some cable, wearin’ some rhinestones.

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

Posted in Books, Combat Sports, Films, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 27 February, 2010

The theme of the month definitely seems to be “motion pictures” – not only is it time again for the renowned Flatpack Festival, March also sees this year’s Film Dash 48 hour challenge (see that link if you style yourself an auteur) and a few other filmy things besides.

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.

Monday the 1st – Dizzee Rascal @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Sold out already though. I doubt that’ll surprise anybody.

Monday the 1st – Los Campesinos @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – No, really, it’s definitely “maths” and not “math”.

Tuesday the 2nd – “Lotty’s War” (Giddy Ox Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Lotty finds herself torn between loyalty and survival during the (nowadays often forgotten) German occupation of the Channel Islands.

Wednesday the 3rd till Thursday the 18th – “Behna” (Black Country Touring/Kali Theatre) @ somewhere on Weoley Park Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham – A site-specific play in a house, the precise address of which will be revealed on the booking of tickets. The secrets of two generations are observed through the kitchen.

Wednesday the 3rd and Thursday the 4th – “Meeting Joe Strummer” (The Future Is Unwritten) @ The Studio, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry – Saw this a couple of years ago and thought it was great. Two blokes grow up, with and without the Clash in the background.

Wednesday the 3rd – “The World’s Wife” with Linda Marlowe @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – A stage adaptation (somehow) of the Carol Ann Duffy poems.

Thursday the 4th till Saturday the 6th – “The Women Of Troy” (Young REP) @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – Euripedes trousers, you buya dese trousers.

Thursday the 4th – Angie Stone @ The Academy, Birmingham – Several years on I still think that “I’d rather be picking up bottles and cans if you can’t be my man” consists of two completely unrelated clauses, but she’s ace nevertheless.

Thursday the 4th – Woodenbox With The Fistful Of Fivers @ The Victoria, Birmingham – Very well-named Scottish folk sorts, playing a Colour do.

Wednesday the 4th – Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA Orchestra @ Butterworth Hall, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry – Fresh from not participating in The Specials reunion, here’s Jerry Dammers with his jazz big band.

Saturday the 6th – Fairport Convention @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – A holiday, a holiday, the first one of the year.

Sunday the 7th – Obituary @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – The best death metal band, when I (as I often for some reason do) forget about the existence of Entombed. Otherwise second place. That’s still very good though, obviously.

Wednesday the 10th – David Benson’s “Doctor Whom? My Search For Samuel Johnson” @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – I haven’t been to see David Benson for ages. A-typically (as he acknowledges) this one isn’t about a dead camp comedian, but I bet it’s very funny.

Wednesday the 10th – Atsuhiro Ito @ Vivid, Digbeth, Birmingham – A Japanese artiste who has created his own optical/sound instrument, the Optron.

Thursday the 11th till Sunday the 14th – Crufts @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – HOUNDS, everyone’s fond of how-wunds, except for… no, wait, I’ve got the wrong song.

Thursday the 11th – “Film Dash” screening @ The Electric Cinema, Birmingham – A selection of the entries and the announcement of the winner.

Friday the 12th till Wednesday the 17th – St Patrick’s Day Festival @ all over Digbeth, Birmingham – The parade is on the Saturday, this year. The “St Patrocks” bands bit is in the college on the same day (hopefully it won’t suffer from being a complete pain in the arse like last year), and Irish literature night at The Old Crown on the 16th sounds interesting too.

Friday the 12th – “Blue Remembered Hills” (New Century Theatre Company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Dennis Potter’s famous play-for-whichever-day.

Friday the 12th – Autechre @ The Rainbow Warehouse, Digbeth, Birmingham – More groovy than they were glitchy, two years ago. Oh my god that gig was two years ago.

Friday the 12th – Killa Kela @ The Academy 3, Birmingham – This would be where I attempt beatboxing like some embarrassing family member.

Saturday the 13th – The Stranglers @ The Academy, Birmingham – Walking in The Academy looking at the old men (doo-doo-doo, do-do do doo doo).

Saturday the 13th – AMMA @ Banks’ Stadium, Bescott, Walsall – The always great amateur MMA cards, partially courtesy of Yoo-Eff-Cee Ref-Er-Ee Marc Goddard. Latest card here.

Saturday the 13th – “Eat My Shorts” @ The Edge, Digbeth, Birmingham – Short fillums then a disco, to raise money for Haiti.

Sunday the 14th – Boxing (First Team) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Afternoon card rescheduled from last month, headlined by Dean Harrison vs Ben Lawler. It’s also going to be streamed on BrandHatton.tv for three quid, if that suits you better.

Sunday the 14th – Speech DeBelle @ The Drum, Newtown, Birmingham – Go then go then. Bye.

Monday the 15th – The Four Tops / The Temptations @ The NIA, Birmingham – Any resemblance to any original band members live or dead is purely co-incidental.

Tuesday the 16th – Mono @ The Asylum, Hockley, Birmingham – The “heavy like Beethoven” tagline always seemed a bit cheap, but the few tracks I’ve just listened to on TheirSpace seem pleasing enough in that usual “getting louder then quieter again” sort of way. The first part of The Asylum’s two days o’ post rock, courtesy of Capsule.

Wednesday the 17th – Thee Silver Mt. Zion (or whatever the current version of their name is) @ The Asylum, Hockley, Birmingham – The second part of The Asylum’s two days o’ post rock. I’m given to understand that they don’t like being described as post-rock, but then again I don’t like seeing bands get precious over that sort of thing so I suppose we’re all even.

Wednesday the 17th – The Dubliners @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – I cannot even begin to imagine how great it would be to see The Dubliners on St Patrick’s Day, but it’s already long-since sold out. Blast.

Friday the 19th – Four Tet @ The Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham – Folk-dance-electronica sorts. I can’t find precisely where in the Custard Factory they’re meant to be playing, but I’d be willing to guess at Space 2.

Friday the 19th – “Beating Berlusconi” (Turf love Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Based on the true story of a demoralised Liverpool fan who ended up meeting Silvio Berlusconi in Turkey.

Friday the 19th – Marlena Shaw @ The Hare And Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – The actual real one, ladies and gentlemen.

Saturday the 20th – Postman Pat’s “A Very Royal Mission” @ The town hall/library theatre, Stourbridge – Accompanied as ever by his black-and-white cat.

Sunday the 21st – “Identity Of The Soul” @ The Drum, Newtown, Birmingham – A five (count ‘em) screen series of filmed poems, involving Ibsen and concerning matters of “war, retaliation and the consequences of choice”. Possibly an interesting adjunct to all of your Flatpack filmeramarama.

Sunday the 21st – Midlands Amateur Boxing Association finals @ The Tower Ballroom, Edgbaston, Birmingham – I’m not going to pretend I know the slightest tiny thing about amateur boxing, but the finals of the Midlands ABAs are here and apparently there will be 13 title-deciding fights across the various weightclasses.

Tuesday the 23rd till Sunday the 28th – Flatpack Film Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of filmic goodness. Highlights abound – there’s that black metal documentary, a thing about what is supposedly the worst film ever, a seminar that teaches you how to animate vegetables, and a whole pile more.

Wednesday the 24th till Saturday the 27th – “Ghost Boy” (20 Stories High Theatre) @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – A play with hip-hop, grime, ska, puppetry, and a bloke declaring himself to be the superhero “Fly Man”.

Wednesday the 24th – Jethro Tull @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – One-legged flute etc etc etc.

Tuesday the 30th and Wednesday the 31st – “Fawlty Towers” (Central Youth Theatre) @ Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton – There’s something really quite surreal about the idea of young’uns doing “Fawlty Towers”.

Tuesday the 30th – Editors @ The Academy, Birmingham – Formerly Echo & The Bunnymen, now Depeche Mode.

Far beyond metal

Posted in Music by Russ L on 11 February, 2010

I would recommend, bredrins and sistrins, that you don your denim-jacket-with-the-arms-ripped-off-and-patches-sewn-on-the-back for this one. It was a Very Metal weekend.

Random metal titbit – “Spinal Tap” is great, but “Bad News” and “More Bad News” are both a hundred times funnier. I would very much recommend that you have a watch of them, if you never have before.

Friday the 29th brought the opportunity to go and see some Unholy Black Metal. Black metal may be only too easy to mock, with the sad panda face paint and the right wing imagery and the guitars that alternate between sounding like a wasp trapped in a jar and someone trying to hum whilst shivering, but… I’m not sure where I’m going with this, actually. There are good bands and bad bands, anyway, just like everything else.

Off I toddled to The Asylum, which is a bit of a rum ‘un – affiliated with Madhouse rehearsal studios, it’s a massive outhouse-seeming thing with a corrugated tin roof (probably not actual tin, now I come to think about it). The barstaff wear nurse/medical orderly uniforms, presumably because the name of the place is “The Asylum”. You can tell they’ve put some thought into this.

I missed the first couple of bands (trainfail rather than my own fault, for a change), and so Anaal Nathrakh started the gig for me. Former members of the ace Mistress (accompanied by others live) play black metal mixed with a plenty of grind (and Nietzschean self-help slogans between songs. Still no camels though, even after all these years). They have a hell of a lot of raw power to their sound and some hooks in their songs, as well as a great frontman in Dave. This makes them uncool in the truest of black metal circles, obviously.

Music aside, the funniest moment in their set occurred when it was brought to the attention of the band that people wanted to stagedive and were not allowed. A speech was given about thinking that this was an extreme metal gig where properly there should be no rules and regulations (well I never did) (this was far more exploitative, meanwhile, than other things said earlier that were fretted over) (anyway…), and a stage invasion occurred. Said invaders then proceeded to stand in a line and politely shuffle off the edge of the stage one at a time. There’s probably a moral in this, but I’m buggered if I can figure out what it is.

After what felt like an excessive wait we had Swedes Marduk, who are named after the Babylonian god rather than the Midlands term of affection. Sadly. They didn’t quite sound like the odds and ends I’d heard some years ago – I recall them having a lot of death metal in their black metal (technical terms whoo!), but that wasn’t evident amongst the more typical sound here-heard. Whilst I confess that I’m not the most rhythmically inclined frood out there (I’m better with rhythm than tonality, but still crap with both), it definitely sounded like there were a couple of times when the drummer changed tempo a bit sooner than the rest of them managed. We’re all only human I suppose (etc etc etc). I still quite enjoyed the bunch of songs I heard before nipping off for the train, anyway, although probably wouldn’t go out of my way for them.

(Other people write here and here).

Random metal titbit – Bruce Dickinson’s “Accident Of Birth” is an unjustly forgotten proper-metal album. It’s bloody great.

The following night (that would be Saturday the 30th, chronology fans) I went to the Academy 2. This is the second time I’ve been to the new version, and much like the new main Academy room it’s not great but it’s far better than the old one. More so, really, as a result of the old Academy 2 being the least likeable live venue I’ve ever encountered (the old Academy main room was merely one of the least likeable live venues I’ve ever encountered). The scrum at the bar was three/four deep all night, so I didn’t have a drink. That was certainly like the old one, where I had a strict boycott.

I arrived in time for the last few songs of Violent Arrest, who constituted a punk interlude in this most metal of weekends. I read afterwards that their ranks include former members of Ripcord, Heresy and The Varukers (amongst others) and that’ll gives you a good idea of their sound. Alright enough, anyway. It was especially surreal to hear a band like this in a venue like this – this sort of hall is always weird and inhuman, obviously, but seeing the sort of turn that I’d normally encounter nowhere other than in a Digbeth boozer amplifies that no end.

Victims had an appropriate sound for our move back towards metal from punk – Motorheady/Dischargey total energy and aggression and ramalamalama, but with hooks a-plenty too. Seeing them in a place like the Aca wasn’t as surreal (as such) ar it was for Violent Arrest, but it was nevertheless a real shame – Victims would have torn (say) The Flapper a new arsehole. Still ace, though.

I have to admit to having leaped to a bit of a hasty judgement, after this. The crowd (in the break between bands) were initially very annoying indeed (squealing whenever a band member walked onto the stage to look at his amp or whatever-have-you), but in the long run it turned out that their excitability turned out to be a great thing for the general atmosphere. It is interesting to note (well, I say “interesting”…) that – although this is the fourth time I’ve seen Municipal Waste – the settings in which I’ve seen them have varied a fair bit (two rammed Flapper gigs, the first involving a massive bunch of young’uns all dressed up for the preceding set by Send More Paramedics; a half curtained-off but still barely a quarter full JB’s; and then this – several hundred people going seven shades of mentalist in a glossy corporate venue).

Seven shades of mentalist sums it up pretty well. I like Municipal Waste and their ther-rash metal (or late 80s thrash crossover, if you particularly will) a lot and they were on as wonderful form as ever here, but this was one of those gigs where the crowd provides as much excitement (and need for a tin hat) as the band. Enormous circle pits (ah… it would’ve been fun once, but it’s a young man’s game) and walls-o’-death, and even a new one to me called the “chicken fight”. Folk mount each others shoulders and engage in high-altitude pushing and slapping. The winner (arbitrarily decided, it has to be said) was promised free merchandise if he then crowdsurfed all the way to the back, which he eventually managed after being briefly passed the wrong way. I hope he shared his swag with his mate who’d carried him – surely that lad was the one doing all the actual work.

Fun beyond belief, anyway – antics (antics~!) combined with great silly thrash and lyrics about sharks and being electrocuted and so forth. If you don’t understand the appeal I’ll probably never be able to explain.

(Other words about this gig here, here and here).

Random metal tibit – I happened to hear Danzig’s “Mother” the other day and was confused. Perhaps I don’t dislike the pompous goth-metal dwarf’s music quite as much as I thought I did. It certainly didn’t sound like I thought I remembered it sounding – I have a sneaky suspicion that I may have been confusing Danzig with Type O Negative. He himself always still comes across as a complete tit, whichever way up.

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

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 29 November, 2009

I’m sure there must be lots more lovely Christmas stuff, but I can’t seem to find very much of it. Nuts to New Year. This is the West Midlands, not Scotland.

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 6th of Feb – “George’s Marvellous Medicine” (Birmingham Stage Company) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – Mixing up everything in your medicine cabinet is not recommended at home, kids. Unless you’re genuinely thirsty.

Until Saturday the 9th of January – “A Christmas Carol” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Seems fair to me to say that “Marley was dead: to begin with” is the second greatest opening line in all of literature.

Between Tuesday the 1st and Saturday the 19th – A whole tonne of Capsule stuff to celebrate ten years of ‘em @ various venues in Brum – There’s loads of stuff. I’ll list the lot (and just link to their event pages) for the sake of completeness, so this doesn’t mean I’m seriously recommending SunnO)))~!111: Monotonix, Esquilax, Beestung Lips and Cum Dogs at Vivid in Digbeth on the 1st; Tunng, Six Organs Of Admittance, Lightning Dust And Bella Emerson at the Town Hall on the 2nd (this is the one I’m most looking forward to); Lightning Bolt, Tweak Bird and Pete Prescription at Vivid on the 8th; Sunno)))}}}]]] and Om at The Asylum in Hockley on the tenth; Pram and Light Trap at Vivid on the 11th; a free afternoon film showing at Vivid on the 13th with a buffet and pictures provided by 7 Inch Cinema; Beak, Einstellung and Thought Forms at Vivid on the 16th (Edit: That one is cancelled. Poo.); some sort of evening social or suchlike at Vivid on the 17th; and a final partay with Modified Toy Orchestra, PCM, Calvados Beam Trio, Una Corda and Stinky Wizzleteat at Vivid on the 19th. You owe me a pint if I’ve managed to put all of those links in without cocking up the code at all. (EDIT: There’s also one in association with Heat And Light at Vivid on the night of the 13th, with Sudden Infant and Nic Bullen).

Tuesday the 1st – Alice Cooper @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Giving a golf seminar, perhaps.

Thursday the 3rd till Saturday the 12th (but not the 7th) – Aston Hall By Candlelight @ Aston Hall, Aston, Birmingham – This year themed around the Victorian household entertaining a royal visitor.

Thursday the 3rd till Saturday the 5th – “The Just Price Of Flowers” (Stan’s Café) @ A.E. Harris, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Inspired by Brecht, but not actually one of his (apparently there has been some confusion). Parallels are drawn between modern-day financial nuttery and 17th century Dutch tulip nuttery.

Friday the 4th – Chris Addison @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Ollie Ollie Ollie, Oi Oi Oi.

Various dates between Saturday the 5th and Saturday the 19th – Verdi’s “Othello” (Birmingham Opera Company) @ The Argyle Works, Bordesley, Birmingham – Birmingham Opera Company’s version of “Idomeneo” last year was greater than great can be. Judging by the postcode, the venue for this should be somewhere in the general vicinity of here.

Friday the 5th – Frank Sidebottom @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Fantastic showbusiness.

Saturday the 5th – Boxing (dunno who’s promoting) @ The Hilton Hotel, Coventry – Including Max “Max” Maxwell vs Martin Concepcion, in what must be Max’s 381,789th Midlands area title match (EDIT: or 4th, if you want to be boring and accurate).

Sunday the 6th – Madball @ Busk, Birmingham – Hardcore for tuphguyzzz. I will forever maintain that “Droppin’ Many Suckers” is one of the greatest names that anyone ever has called and ever could call an album.

Monday the 7th – The Unthanks @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – North-Eastern folkifiers formerly known as “Rachel Unthank And The Winterset”. I’m glad they’ve changed their name. OtherUnthankSister didn’t outwardly appear to do any less than Rachel, so it’s fairer this way.

Tuesday the 8th – Jodi Ann Bickley @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Interesting and endearing poetry, happening at the same time as the ’Freestyle’ photography exhibiton.

Wednesday the 9th – Alexander O’Neal @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Or rather “80s soul nuisance Alexander O’Neal”, as the in-joke that you won’t get has it.

Wednesday the 9th – Seth Lakeman @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Frequently fancied fiddler fascinates folks (with) folk.

Wednesday the 9th – The Bookhouse Boys @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Like Tindersticks on holiday in Hawaii, or somesuch.

Wednesday the 9th – “Arc” (with Graft) @ The Vaults, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – The first of a new monthly art night, with a different set of artists each time. Here ‘Graft’ (whoever they might be) will bring a Jewellery-with-other-meanings exhibition from “The Institute Of Meaningful Interaction” and artist Mark Baldwin appearing as part of the structure of the building. Apparently. All very vague as a result of the fact that no sod seems to have a web presence because… I don’t know why not. I love The Vaults, though, it’s a great place.

Thursday the 10th – Madness @ The Academy, Birmingham – Mavva Brahn’s got her knees up, presumably in the process of skanking. This one is (unsurprisingly) sold out, but they’re also at The Civic on the 17th.

Friday the 11th – “Resistance, Revolt, Rebellion: A Double Bill of Civil Disobedience” (Kindandgenerous Productions and Emma Purshouse) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – In Love And Taxes, current Brum poet laureate Adrian Johnson and Jessi of Eastfield bring songs and stories recalling the popular opposition to the poll tax. In “Are You Sitting Comfortably?”, Emma Purshouse tell poems of “rebellion, revolution and armchair inactivism”.

Sunday the 13th – Basement Jaxx @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Let’s all have a disco, let’s all have a disco.

Sunday the 13th – Depeche Mode @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – A band who I’d say have been quite the unsung influence on quite a fair bit of music in recent years.

Tuesday the 15th – Public Image Limited @ The Academy, Birmingham – Given that my LOTTSADITWM often feature metal and boxing, it seems only too apt that a band who put out an album called “Metal Box” should be in here. Also: post-punk legends, Country Life butter etc.

Wednesday the 16th till Sunday the 20th – “The Snow Queen” (Screamingvoiceyouththeatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Screamingvoice etc.etc. are absolutely ace, they really are.

Wednesday the 16th – Nile @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Ancient Egyptian themed death metal, and I can’t see how you could possibly think that isn’t the best idea ever. Nothing I’ve ever heard by them is quite as good as the concept, but Krisiun are on the bill too and they’ll blow your earwax free (I mean that in a good way).

Wednesday the 16th – The Pogues @ The Academy, Birmingham – [Slur]Dirty old Towwwwwwwwwwn…[/slur]

Friday the 18th until Friday the 9th of January – Funworld @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – I don’t see how anyone could dislike a world of fun. It’s a huge indoor funfair (including, apparently, a “300ft bungee slingshot”. Indoors, I’ll repeat with vague concern) and has to win the all-time title for “event I’ve been handed the largest number of the same flyer for”.

Saturday the 21st – The Beat’s xmas party @ The Asylum, Hockley, Birmingham – 30 years since they started, apparently (see also the 27th).

Monday the 21st – The Wildhearts @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – My unbroken run of not managing to see any Wildhearts or Wildhearts-related gigs since 2001 will definitely continue here. They’re still ace though.

Monday the 21st – Musical Youth @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Don’t take the mick, you know which way you need to pass it.

Wednesday the 23rd until Sunday the 3rd of January – “The Gruffalo (Tall Stories) @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – They had The Gruffalo plodding along as part of the Reindeer Parade in town recently. I thought he was cute.

Friday the 25th – IT’S CHRIIISTMUUUUUUS!

Sunday the 27th – Drongos For Europe’s xmas party @ the Asylum, Hockley, Birmingham – 30 years since they started, apparently (see also the 21st).