Call me Russ L

Moseley Folk Festival 2008 (the Sunday, that is)

Posted in Music by Russ L on 9 November, 2008

(This post is another part of the filling-in-the-blanks exercise from my account of the last three months).

Sunday the 31st of August was the third and last day of both the 2008 Moseley Folk Festival and my end-of-August gig weekend (detailed here, amongst a load of other nonsense). I was going to go through every act we saw, but lord o’ mercy it was ages ago. I’ll instead just give mention to the bits that stood out the most:

The Good

~ The whole thing felt lovely. It really did, just as it did the previous two years. ‘Lovely’, of course, is one of my favourite things for anything to be. Moseley Park is gorgeous, but there’s more to it than that. There’s just a really nice atmosphere hanging over the whole thing.
~ Ian Campbell and Sons played the best set of the day; nay, best set of the last few months. In my ignorance I wasn’t really aware of him before (I think I’d vaguely heard that the father of those UB40 types was a folk singer, somewhere in the dim and distant past, but never really thought much of it) and I’m now particularly sad about that, given that the programme states this was his last ever gig (I didn’t hear him actually say that, though). A mix of English, Scottish and Irish folk songs, I particularly loved “My Father Knew The Man Who Played The Pipes For Padraig Pearse” (rebel history and mockery of pub bores all in one song, you can’t lose) and even more so “The Old Man’s Tale” (a song made out of the history of the first half of the twentieth century as told to Ian by an old fella in a home in the early 60s). Amazing, amazing stuff, and I think perhaps the second best live set of the year so far (after Bjork). It’s a shame his sons spend so much time faffing about with that reggae-version-of-Status-Quo nonsense rather than this.
~ Tyburn Jig’s pirate stories are always massive amounts of fun. They’re the same stories every year, of course (well… there are minor changes, if I remember rightly) but I’ll still always make sure I see them at Mizoke Fizolk.
~ Rachel Unthank And The Winterset played an absolutely gorgeous set of traditional and new material. I definitely prefer the Unthank sister (not sure which is which) who sings in her own North-East accent to the one who sings in that generic slightly-Celtic lady-folk voice, though.
~ John Tams & Barry Coope did a smooth-as-butter Simon & Garfunkle-esque type of thing, and sounded divine.
~ Seth Lakeman was in great form from the few songs we heard. We had to leave, though. Falling asleep during his set would not have been a good look, even if it was a result of genuine tiredness.
~ Waterson:Carthy were great, predictably, but Norma was especially endearing. She’d been at the gin again, I think.
~ Chris TT seemed really interesting, from the brief bit we heard of him (those aforementioned pirate stories got in the way). Very Billy Bragg-ish (even if he did have one lyric that seemed to express disapproval of Double-B), with that strong-lyrics-and-strident-solo-electric-guitar thing going on.

The Bad

~ The Weather: It was raining for a fair bit of the day, and outdoor events aren’t quite as good when it’s raining.
~ The bar seems to have taken a step backwards. The first year they kept running out of beer, which is obviously a feeble thing for a bar to do. Last year they seemed to everything sorted, with a nice wide selection of ales in plentiful supply. They didn’t run out this year (on the Sunday we were there, at least), but the partnership with Purity seemed to ensure that there was a far narrower selection of things to try.
~ Aching. Aching is bad. When you’re tired. And aching.
~ Scott Matthews has his moments but for crying out loud get on with it.
~ The Destroyers played on the Saturday. That’s not a bad thing in itself, obviously – the problem lies purely in the fact that they weren’t playing on the day I was there. Right up to that very morning I was hoping that something would happen to make them have to change days.

The Ugly

~ The toilets got pretty epically foul. Ye Gods.

***

I’m quite surprised that there hasn’t been a collective memory post anywhere for this, but here are a few links for further reading:

~ The festival’s own guestbook.

~ The Hearing Aid’s review in parts one and two.

~ E-Festivals review in parts one, two and three.

~ Pete Ashton Y’all Pete Ashton’s notes.

~ BSAG’s thoughts.

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

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

Festival~!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Verily I Shall Ramble II: The Waffling

Posted in Combat Sports, Music by Russ L on 21 May, 2008

And so it continues. More somewhat brief descriptions of Stuff Wot I Dun.

The ‘English Originals’ folk festival began on Friday the 25th of April, but (as previously chronicled) I was down the road at the time, to see Björk. As such I missed Billy Bragg, which was a shame (it sounds like it was a fantastic gig) but then again I have seen him three times before and if all remains well I’m sure I’ll get plenty of chances to see him again.

Sharon Kraus started larks off at The Town Hall on the Saturday night, doing an unhappy-Vashti style of folk with odd lyrics. And she was… OK-ish. She seemed to make a distinction between some of her songs being miserable & some being jollier, but I couldn’t really hear how the ones she seemed to think were the latter differed from any of the rest.

Tunng, as I’ve said at least four squintillion times before, are one of my favourite bands knocking around at the moment. This (the fifth time I’ve seen them) saw them employing new and different arrangements for quite a few of their wonderful (electro-folk, space-folk, oddball folk, all my usual descriptors) songs. I (criminally) can’t remember which song it was added to, but the tribal percussion jam ending that involving knocking plastic tubes off their legs was particularly fantastic. Their rocky one that I first heard at Supersonic last year seemed ace this time around, too. No ‘Beautiful And Light’, alas, but I think they were pushed for time. Band of the night, and during most months they would’ve been band of the month (blame the previous night’s Björk set for that).

Although saying it will mean I risk the wrath of Lady Baron, this gig really struck home to me the fact that Seth Lakeman looks about twelve years old. Just sayin’. I enjoyed his set, but not as much as I did at Moseley Folk the year before last – the pop-folk-rock stuff with the band seemed to veer a tiny touch into bland at times. Only a tiny bit. The best parts by far (Kitty Jay & Lady Of the Sea) were when it’s just him and his fiddle. His fiddle-playing just shimmers.

(If you weren’t there, click Hear for Aid. That didn’t really work as a pun, did it? Oh well).

My folkin’ Sunday began with Little Sister’s free set in the Symphony Hall foyer. They were really, really enjoyable, making use of the folk styles of a few different countries, lots of different instruments, and some almost doo-wop-ish close harmony singing to play a mix of standards and their own songs. There was a huge sense of infectious fun about them, and I’d definitely like to see them again at some point.

A quick pint in the Paradise Forum Wetherspoons (The Prince Of Wales was packed far too full) later, and it was time to head into the Town Hall for the Daughters Of Albion. Not a regular band as such, Daughters Of Albion consist of various female folk stalwarts (Kathryn Williams, Norma Waterson, June Tabor, Lisa Knapp, Bishi, and Lou Rhodes) singing different songs at different times, backed by a band which included the likes of Martin Carthy and Neill MacColl.

It was of mixed quality, but good overall. Bishi may have looked fabulous but she simply didn’t have anywhere near the depth of voice she needed not to sound a bit feeble next to the rest, and while Tabor is renowned as a great interpreter of songs I really wasn’t feeling it (even putting aside the one song she did with that “to be considered true and righteous, a thing must obtain energy from chlorophyll” lyrical style that you fear when an event bills itself as ‘English folk’). She has (what we might politely call) A Very Particular Manner about herself, too. Apparently she doesn’t like singing at the same time as other people. The other three were great, of course, and the obviously nervous Kathryn made for an endearing compere. There were highlights a-plenty alongside the embarrassing bits, including a (surprisingly intense) version of P.J. Harvey’s “Down By The Water” led by Lou Rhodes, Williams doing “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, Lisa Knapp’s own “There U R” (sic), and… quite a few more, but I don’t remember. It was over three weeks ago. Definitely some of the Norma Waterson stuff, but I forget what.

(Evidently some people had stronger thoughts about the poorer bits).

Wednesday the 30th saw me heading to The Civic in Wolves for the boxing, accompanied by my main bredrinman Diz Keniz. Fight of the night (or such of it as I saw, anyway – I missed the Scott Evans bout and the latter half of Rob Hunt’s due to the ever-pressing need to catch the last bus in order to actually get home) was definitely the wild affair between Wolverhampton’s own Lyndsey Scragg and Ukrainian Victoria Oleynik. The normally smooth-boxing Lyndsey had to learn and learn fast about how to deal with having a rough brawl forced upon her by the very scrappy Victoria. This was the first time I’d seen Lyndsey in any sort of trouble at all, but she came through it narrowly. My main reason beforehand for wanting to go to this had been to see the headline fight Dean Harrison vs Gary Reid. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Harrison’s insistence on only fighting quality opposition makes me very happy indeed. I’d actually got this eight-rounder tied at 76-76 at the end, but the ref saw things differently and awarded it to Deano (78-76). His plan of going in close against renowned body puncher Reid and hardly jabbing was certainly playing with fire, but grit saw him through (although he absorbed some nasty-looking punishment at times). It’s onwards and upwards for the Black Country’s Deano and that’s as it should be, but I do feel sorry for Reid as another red mark is added to his loss column (the man makes for a perfect example of the old “he’s better than his record” cliché).

Those two were the standouts, but I was quite happy with the card overall. Most of the fights were (as ever) foregone conclusions in terms of results, but they all seemed surprisingly competitive on a minute-for-minute basis. I’d still rather see someone wave a magic wand that would reform boxing as a whole and leave us with matches where the outcomes aren’t definite, but failing that then this sort of thing will do.

(Dod Ken’s account can be read here, while Tom Podmore’s BBN report is here. EDIT: There’s a Birmingham Mail report as well).

I’m getting fed up of writing this now, but I really could do with ploughing on. I’ll never be up to date otherwise.

Carina Round at The Barfly on Sunday the 4th of May, backed by her band for the first time in what seems like forever. You all know by now that I like a bit of ‘Rina. Adrienne Pierce and Ari Shine supported, but neither offered much of anything in particular. Carina herself seemed to be in a bit of a good-time partying mood for this one, and so in such a fashion the gig proceeded. We got “Lacuna” (first time I’ve heard that live for an age), “Monument”, “Take The Money” (this was particularly fun, I recall), “Come To You” (I may be softening on this slightly. I’m prepared to acknowledge that I like the beginning of it), “Downslow”, “Into My Blood”, and probably loads more old faves. I can’t remember. The new but by now familiar ‘Backseat’ and ‘Thief In The Sky’ (this with the added bonus of the band looking very uncomfortable and embarrassed while standing in line and providing backing vox) got airings, as did the new but less familiar ‘Do You’ (the clawing-of-eyes-mentioning one she played at Woom a couple of weeks prior) and ‘Everything A Reason’ (which seems to have a bit of earlier-Carina style intensity about it). Both of those were primarily acoustic with the band only adding a bit of texture, and so from this we can have a fair ol’ guess at the direction that the next album will take.

There’s little more unpleasant than the heat of a sold-out Academy (just think – that temperature is coming from inside people. I shudder), but that was where I found myself on the 5th for Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds. I’m sad to report that this was by far the least of the three times I’ve seen Nick Cave. This was mostly a fault of far-from-ideal sound (when ‘Tupelo’ of all things is made to sound dynamically flat then you know you have a problem) but Cave and Co really didn’t help things by (seemingly) deliberately going for a rough ‘n’ ready, garage-y sort of approach. This stung the most during the more reflective and romantic songs – “Straight To You”, “Into My Arms” and “The Ship Song” all really suffered.

They weren’t anywhere near outright bad, of course, and are never likely to be. “Papa Won’t Leave You Henry” achieved a magnificent state of ragged glory (possibly actually aided by the factors that humbled other parts of the set), while “Red Right Hand” and its Morricone come noir come fire ambience cut through everything. Cave alternated between ‘avuncular’, ‘caustically sarcastic’ and ‘possessed’ in that endearing way that he always does, and led the assembled massive in a hugely fun singalong during “Lyre Of Orpheus”. Of the new stuff, “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!” and particularly “We Call Upon The Author To Explain” sounded fantastic.

Great stuff overall, but not quite as great as one might have expected. I know, I know, moon on a stick and so forth. I think I’ve earned the right to be a bit self-indulgent about this night, though – I managed to avoid making the obvious joke to an annoying pissed woman standing near me who spent all evening shouting for “Thirsty Dog”. This feat of goodwill should surely not go unrewarded by The Rest Of The Universe.

(Many, many, many others have written about this gig. Opinions vary).

Carina again? Go on then, why not. To The Little Civic on the 7th, for a more typical gig than the funtime partytime at The Barfly. Lots of people talking during the quieter songs at this one, though, which was as annoying as it always is. There’s a setlist in this messageboard thread – broadly the same as the previous gig, with an added “How I See It” and an encore of “Let It Fall” (devastating as ever, but with an ending I either didn’t know or drunkenly failed to recognise). “Monument” sounded absolutely stonking here, and happily there’s a video.

Right, that’s it, had enough. I hereby declare this post finished. I’m neeearly up to date now anyway.

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

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 29 March, 2008

This month is clearly all about fighting, and orchestral & choral music. Maybe all at the same time.

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.

Saturday the 29th of March till Sunday the 6th of April – ‘Dance Steps’ (Stan’s Café) @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – You, yes that’s you, can perform this play by means of choosing and following different sets of instructions and directions scattered around the MAC. From the people that brought you the (I’ll say it yet again) magnificent The Cleansing Of Constance Brown.

Tuesday the 1st – Beethoven’s 5th (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, The ICC, Birmingham – Dur-dur-dur DUUUURRRRR! Dur-dur-dur DUUUURRRRR!

Wednesday the 2nd and Wednesday the 9th – ‘Midland Journey: Archive Film Of Wolverhampton And The Black Country’ @ The Light House, Wolverhampton – Showing various films of how it was in The Good Old Days. It promises chainmaking and groaty pudding.

Thursday the 3rd until Saturday the 5th – ‘Days Of Hope’ (MAC Productions) @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A Howard Goodall musical translating the events in The Balkans in the late 80s into a Spanish civil war setting. It’s had some very good reviews.

Thursday the 3rd till Sunday the 6th – British Open Show Jumping Championships @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Neigh, neigh and thrice neigh.

Friday the 4th till Sunday the 6th – MAC closing weekend @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – The final hurrah of the Midland Arts Centre before it closes until Autumn 2009 to be refurbished and rebuilt. As well as the abovementioned ‘Dance Steps’ and ‘Days Of Hope’, Friday is the storytelling day for families, then there are a couple of days of puppetry events and the grand finale of the MAC On Screen film showing.

Saturday the 5th – Handel’s ‘Messiah’ (Ex Cathedra/Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment) @ Symphony Hall, The ICC, Birmingham – Oh hey they’re playing my song.

Saturday the 5th and various dates up until till Saturday the 19th – ‘Top Girls’ (Crescent Theatre Presents) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – The excellent Caryl Churchill play. The people putting it all together have set up a blog. This is a very good thing. They’ve neglected to put the dates and times and so forth on it, but still. Baby steps.

Tuesday the 8th – John Barrowman @ Symphony Hall, The ICC, Birmingham – Captain Jack sings.

Friday the 11th – ‘The Masque Of Red Death’ (The Happiness Patrol theatre company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Poe. And I ain’t talking about La-La’s mate.

Saturday the 12th – AMMA @ The Holte Suite, Aston Villa Football Club, Aston, Birmingham – Amateur and B-class pro MMA, and they’re always good shows. This version of the card is fairly up-to-date, I believe.

Sunday the 13th – Portishead @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Of course it’s already sold out, you silly moo.

Sunday the 13th – Pugilist Promotions’ “Old School/New Blood” (Boxing) @ The Tower Ballroom, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Fighting sports return to the reservoir-side venue for the first time in aaages. You have amateurs early in the afternoon, then (after a break) professionals in the evening.

Monday the 14th – ‘The Terrible Tudors/The Vile Victorians’ (Horrible Histories) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – For kiddies, though, so I doubt it will stoop to the genuine horrible and vile depths.

Monday the 14th – Mil Millington @ Hall Green Library, Hall Green, Birmingham – Go here (and laugh fulsomely) if you don’t know who Mil Millington is. This reading thingy is only for ages 16-25, though.

Wednesday the 16th – Merzbow and The Dirty Noise Ensemble @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Noizez. Not, I would suggest, for the faint of heart or the delicate of eardrum.

Thursday the 17th – Lethal Bizzle @ The Academy, Birmingham – If you’re going to this, don’t take any beef with you. You’ll risk losing some teef. And you don’t want that.

Saturday the 19th – The Presidents Of The USA – The Academy, Birmingham – This is one of those instances where I used to adore this band, but (without ever at any point consciously going off them) they’ve declined in importance to me to the point where I’m not really all that fussed. Still: “Peaches come from a can/They were put there by a man”. I can’t argue with that.

Saturday the 19th – Thai Boxing (Firewalker) @ The Light Bar, Wolverhampton – I have no details at all, but if you want to see some Muay Thai then this may be the place to go.

Sunday the 20th – ‘As Seen On TV’ (Notorious Choir) @ The Electric Cinema, Birmingham – ‘The choir with a difference’ a-singing television themes.

Sunday the 20th – Mahler’s 2nd (Birmingham Philharmonic/City Of Birmingham Choir) @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Surely the greatest symphony to hear live. (And if you like a bit of Gustav, there’s also his Fifth at Symphony Hall on the 22nd).

Tuesday the 22nd – Gogol Bordello @ The Academy, Birmingham – Take up thy caravan and travel.

Tuesday the 22nd – Boris @ The Medicine bar, The Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham – This gig in collaboration with one Michio Kurihara, which may well mean more to you than it does to me.

Thursday the 24th and Friday the 25th – “Packers” (Zip Theatre) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – A comedy set in The Land Of The Righteous (The Black Country, to the likes of you). Apparently “a story of pain, pathos, severed digits, mad boyfriends, hypochondriacs, attempted murder, sex and parcel-tape.” Also at Newhampton Arts Centre in Wolves on the 18th and 19th.

Thursday the 24th and Friday the 25th – ‘Blue Planet’ (Manchester Camerata) @ Symphony Hall, The ICC, Birmingham – A documentary from off of the telly about fishies and such (remember: keep friends close, anemones closer), with the Manchester Camerata a-playing a score specifically composed by George Fenton.

Friday the 25th – Wayne Elcock vs Darren McDermott for the British middleweight title (Hennessy Sports) @ The Aston Villa Leisure Centre, Aston, Birmingham – Birmingham vs Black Country, and it’s the big one – the British title. Come On Macca! (Although: guh! at the ticket prices. Almost glad I won’t be going, with that sort of piss-taking).

Friday the 25th – Bjork @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Well it’s Bjork. Obviously.

Friday the 25th to Sunday the 27th – English Originals @ The Town Hall & Symphony Hall, Birmingham – An English folk festival, just after St George’s Day. This really does look fantastic: the main gigs are Billy Bragg at The Town Hall on the Friday, Tunng and Seth Lakeman at The Town Hall on Saturday, and The Daughters Of Albion (Kathryn Williams, Norma Waterson, and others) at Symphony hall on he Sunday. You’ve also got free sets (Rush Hour Blues stylee) from The Old Dance School (Friday) and Little Sister (Sunday) at the Symphony Hall foyer in the ICC, and a free showing (if you have a ticket for any of the gigs) of the Folk Britannia documentary at 2pm in The Town Hall on Sunday.

Monday the 28th until Sunday the 25th of May – International Dance Festival @ all over Birmingham – Loads and loads and loads of dance and dance-related events from all over the world are taking place over the course of a month, at various venues in town.

Tuesday the 29th – Alabama 3 @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Woke up this morning. Obviously. I wouldn’t be typing this otherwise.

Wednesday the 30th – Cursed @ The Medicine Bar, The Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham – Sometimes sludgy and sometimes crusty hardcore, but (and this is the best bit) they’re actually really good unlike most of the bands that most of the people who’ll tell you Cursed are good will tell you are good. Good. Tell. Good.

Wednesday the 30th – Boxing (First Team) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – The New And Radical Dean Harrison Matchmaking Philosophy continues to bare fruit – he’s fighting Gary Reid here, which is a genuinely risky fight. Good luck to him, ‘cos it’s great to see.