Call me Russ L

Pre-Supersonic blast-through

Posted in Modern Living, Music by Russ L on 17 October, 2012

Wednesday the 10th was a matter of Michelle Shocked at the Poelagus & Poochie. She is apparently doing a thing called “Roadworks” where she tours in roughly the same places at roughly the same times every year, which would explain why it was near-enough a year since I last saw her. I’m not sure about the name, though. She wouldn’t have made it there in the first place if there were that many roadworks.

Great fun, anyway, just as one might expect – simple songs (as Michelle herself noted) that create a lovely all-in-it-together type atmosphere even for such an anti-social sod as me, and provide an opening to convey many specific facts that you may or may not have known. I was aghast at her tales of “Dual Tracking” – in America, it seems, if you go to your bank for a mortgage adjustment they might well tell you that you have to miss two payments before they’re able to alter your repayment scheme. If you actually go ahead and do that to oblige them, they’ll repossess your house under the terms of the original mortgage. Expect such swindles to start happening over here when the “no more council houses, privately owned property is the only just and proper way” project is finally complete.

Anyway: we heard most of the ones we wanted to hear, between Chel’s own choices and the substantial requests section at the end. She actually played “Anchorage” twice due to the persistence of one fella requesting it it (see what asking nicely does for you? The bloke last year who kept on shouting for the already-played “5am In Amsterdam” but being a dickhead about it might well have learned from this), although the second time around the vocals were nearly entirely turned over to us lot in the audience (the first time, incidentally, revealed that “that love song” she played at her friend’s wedding was “The Water Is Wide”. Last year it was revealed to be “A New England”. Does it change at every gig?). Things closed with an intense acapella version of “The Ballad Of Penny Evans” from the floor, which was a powerful thing to encounter close up.

I quite often seem to have a bit of a block when it comes to going to see the 90s Britrock bands that were a big part of my teenage years. The Wildhearts cop it the worst – I’ve managed to miss every single Wildhearts and Wildhearts-related (this includes ex-member bands) gig since that, er, interesting one at J.B.’s way back in 2001, and there have been quite a lot. That was never the plan, but it seems to have worked out that way. Terrorvision have been neglected to a lesser degree, but that’s only a result of them having played fewer gigs round these parts over the last several years. I saw three of their gigs (also in 2001) the first time around, before they originally split up, but none from their numerous re-union tours since then. I did actually have a ticket for their do at The Academy on the first re-union tour, but managed to fall asleep early in the evening and miss the gig. Bless me.

Now, though, they’re back together more formally! With a new album and everything! And I went to see them! (Although I nearly didn’t. I very nearly went to see John Cale instead. Never mind that though).

That was all an unnecessarily long wind-up for the fact that it was, in essence, a Terrorvision gig. If you’ve never seen a Terrorvision gig, just imagine what you think a Terrorvision gig might be like. It’s exactly like that.

Which is, of course, great fun.

Saturday the 13th saw me heading over to The Crescent Theatre for Midland Opera‘s production of “Turandot”, but we’ll be coming back to that later. The long-threatened opera digest posts will be written. They won’t be worth reading, but they will be written.

To the Digger & Dog again on Monday the 15th, to see Michael Chapman for the fourth time in only slightly over a year. There were significantly fewer attendees than there were when he played five minutes down the road at The Station in January.

Katherine Priddy was on first, and I liked her even more than I did when I saw her a month ago. This time she played a greater proportion of her own songs (including two that she’d only written the previous week – “I don’t know what came over me”). She seemed a touch more Celtic this time around (although I couldn’t tell you precisely what gave me that impression), still channeling that pure-as-the-driven-snow quiet-hippy-folk thing but also displaying a touch of steel in the heart on a version of Seth Lakeman’s “1643”. Occasionally you come across an artiste who seems to have an indefinable special something about them, and I think Katherine Priddy is such a one.

I was a touch worried about the possibility of diminishing returns when it came to Micky C, given that I’ve seen him so much of late, but as it turned out this probably turned out to be my favourite set of the four of his that I’ve encountered. He actually did “Postcards Of Scarborough!”. Quite a few songs of the familiar songs that he always does were at a faster tempo than usual, giving us our highlight in a particularly powerful run through “Memphis In Winter”. He was on particularly good comedic form between songs, too (“After steam trains and chainsaws, one of my main hobbies is annoying Americans…”).

Right, I’ve got all of that out of the way now and it’s a good thing too because Supersonique starts very shortly. The timetable came out today! I think I was spoiled a bit last year by not having needed any taxis home: this one looks like it’ll have two nights beyond the wall of bus-sleep. And that comes dear. There don’t seem to be any obvious paths (if you see what I mean) from the start of the days to the end for me, either, but then again that’s probably a wonderful opportunity for even more than usual of that serendipiditdipihoppitihoppity they talk about.

It’s always ace, whichever way up. There are still tickets. I’d recommend that you get one.

Wary as I am of becoming unnecessarily programmatic (heh heh heh. You don’t encounter many people who are as predictable as me), rather than the usual linkstyles I will present you without a couple of blog posts and subsequent comment threads that have caught my mind in a nagging “I really, really wish this actually hadn’t caught my mind” type of way just recently:

~ Marc Reeves asks Why have Birmingham’s hyperlocal bloggers failed to deliver?, and the obvious answer pointed out by the usual sane figures is “because they never wanted to ‘deliver’ what you seem to be asking for in the first place”. Others suggest that people who blog as a hobby and say that there isn’t necessarily a commercial necessity for it must be displaying “lofty patrician contempt” for those that do try to do it commercially. For some piggin’ reason.

~ I don’t have the first idea what in the world is going on with the Jimmy Saville thing (that Paul Merton outed him years ago, ah reckon) but Stuart “author of the incredibly funny ‘Frantic Planet’ books that you definitely should read” Millard had a post taking the piss out of the David Icke forums’ predictable response to whatever what-all what-have-you has been going on, and to absolutely no-one’s surprise the inevitable has occurred in the comments.

That bleeding internet. It makes me glad that I’m not on it.

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Writing about Supersonic 2011 – what we might politely call “the long view”

Posted in Music by Russ L on 10 February, 2012

Yup, it was three-and-a-half months ago (21/10/11 – 23/10/11). Last year, in fact. This post was too close to being finished to discard, though, and too far away from being finished to tempt me to actually finish it. Ah well. Let’s get it over with now, shall we?

So then, although it is fair to say that Supersonic didn’t strike me as quite as enticing this time around and that Mizosely Folk was the one that triggered most of my 2011 being-excited-about-a-festival pheromones, it’s still a hell of a thing for which we should all be thankful.

I didn’t sleep too tough the previous night, though, and that inevitably has its effect. I got there on the Friday to find that the festival has expanded sideways: out of The Custard Factory (I always wondered what would happen when Supersonic outgrew it), over the Mighty River Rea (see it and marvel at God’s majesty expressed in nature), and onto Floodgate street (and something called ‘Boxxed’ – another warehousey stage). I initially found it a bit difficult to orient myself (what with my tiredness, my stupidity and someone else’s clever decision to draw the map in the programme with South at the top. The second-named was probably the biggest factor, of course), but one soon gets the gist. It was a shame to see the drained-pond stage gone, since that was one of the things that I most strongly associated with the whole affair, but the new layout had it’s advantages – a Purity bar at every stage (ding, dong, the Factory Club is dead) and a sensible barrier placement/use of two-out-of-three doors in Space 2 to minimise cold drafts (a problem envisaged beforehand).

Speaking of climate, it was unseasonably warm for the end of October all weekend. That’s two years running that the most obvious outcome has failed to happen, weather-wise. Rejoice ye not, though, if it carries on taking place in Autumn then eventually the other precipitatory boot will drop and we’ll all get pneumonia.

It was Space 2 all evening for me, anyway. A.P.A.T.T. were on first, and they had a go at everything – klezmer, doom (cor blimey, the big loud doom finale didn’t half give Space 2’s powerful PA system an early blow-out), Elton-John-ish 70s pop, you name it. All whilst wearing all-white costumes. The sad problem is that once you’ve first thought ‘wacky’ it’s very hard to get ‘wacky’ out of your head, and there is little more poisonous. I did like some of the music though.

The tiredness was really upon me by this point, but Part Chimp were on next. It’s probably not how they’re usually described, but I actually found them very relaxing – riffology that I could simply melt into, in my nearly-asleep-on-the-feet state. This was all very nice.

I left then. I would’ve loved to see Mike Watt, but I really was too tired. Leaving at this point had the bonus of me not needing to get a taxi all weekend, though, which cut the cost of the thing enormously.

I slept. I returned on Saturday.

Things began with mostly-electronics duo Berg Sans Nipple, at the Boxxxed stage. Apparently electronics and water can mix nicely, given that they started off sounding like the bottom of a lovely placid lake (albeit one with depth charges of bass killing unsuspecting fishies every now and again). They surfaced from the depths with live drums and a more rhythmic/grooving feel, actually playing (live, I mean, as opposed to replaying a sample of) the Amen Break at one point. I love it when a band does that. It’s like pop repeating on itself after already auto-cannibalising. Enjoyable stuff, anyway.

I crossed The Bridge Over The River Rea (tremble as its raw power threatens to tear apart the culvert so it relentlessly hurtles down) and headed to The Old Library for banjista Nathan Bell. A one-man-band (bar one song), with foot-operated percussion and (at times) little bells dangling from the neck of his banjo. His was an excellent mix of the bluegrassy trad on some songs and the loopy wig-out on others, with a big Morricone-on-crack monstah finale. I must hear more of this Nate Bell character.

Back to Boxxxxed I toddled, in time for what turned out to be the best set of the entire festival. Teeth Of The Sea played what I suppose I could only describe as ‘huge-sounding psychedelic industrial’, with nice little oddments like tribal drumming and trumpet (I was reminded of Morricone again, funnily enough. Maybe if Morricone had ever scored a sci-fi film) overlaid. They had a really dynamic sound, even though most of the set was all at high volume – there was a real feeling of movement within the music. Capable of hitting as hard as anyone else when doing a hard-hitting bit but also flinging you into space when needs be, Teeth Of The Sea won Supersonic 2011.

I headed to Space 2 and watched a little bit of Bardo Pond, but they just seemed to be pulling some entirely stock’n’standard shoegaze moves and my mind found itself drifting towards the thought of obtaining food.

I popped into The Custard Factory’s new Bay Leaf restaurant, and found it to have a slightly more upmarket/young-funky-fresh approach than Digbeth’s longstanding stalwart Manzils. It’s good to have both kinds around, I think. The Beef Aloo Bhuna that I had was enjoyable. Tagore quotes on the wall are nice, charging for poppadoms with a meal is not nice.

Next up was a great bit of crowd participationerationfrom Lucky Dragons, set up in front of the stage in Boxxxxxed. They began with a bit of ethereal ambient bloopery before starting to manipulate a brace of plastic sheets underneath some sort of light-sensitive-sensor which triggered responses in the sounds. They then encouraged people in the audience to have a go themselves, and that was how the rest of the set passed. It was lovely – unsurprisingly, the first few folk to have a stab started cautiously, but before too long people were trying to work out different ways of moving/bending/folding the sheets, putting objects on top on top of them etc. I didn’t participate myself but was it was lovely to watch the happy looks on people’s faces. An altogether joyful thing to see.

Pharaoh Overlord were next, doing The Stooges (even down to singer sounding bit like Iggy) covering Neu!. This, as such a description would suggest, was thoroughly Rocking. There’s not a lot more to describe about them beyond that, but that much Rocking equals that much Fun.

I ended up leaving them before they’d finished to go and see Electric Wizard (Space 2), and upon entering I was pleased to see a balloon being bounced around the crowd like Slava’s Snowshow. I’ve had a strange history with The Wizard – I saw ‘em a couple of times aroundabout a decade ago, but since then I’ve lost touch with them and their doings in spite of how much I adore their “Dopethrone” album (and in spite of how much I was into their offshoot band Ramesses for a while there. Although, thinking about it, I’ve drifted away from Ramesses too nowayears). They were OK enough here, but not quite hitting it – neither the sonic weight of their heavy side or the cheeky grin of their horror-film-sample-using side really struck through. They have plenty of riffs that it’s near-impossible not to nod to, but they didn’t quite put it all together like they did when I were a lad and this were all just fields.

That was it for the Saturday, then. Sunday saw me Back Once Again Like A Renegade Master, and first-of-all ensconcing myself in a seat in the Theatre Space. I am fond of both seats and the Theatre Space, because with these things you get to sit down. More importantly than that, though, I was very eager to see the tuba-doom (“doompah”, if you will) duo Ore. This was amazing – doom metal played on tubas, an inspired choice given that the tuba (as an instrument) provides not only the deep’n’low notes but also the appearance-of-a-massive-physical-struggle that you need to make this sort of thing seem convincing. It was only afterwards that I sussed out whyfore the name, too: ore, the essence of metal, in an unfamiliar form but left pure and stripped of artifice. “Ahar-har-har, that’s actually genuinely clever” I thought. Magnificent, anyway. I would like to see the two of them in collaboration with a didgeridoo player (because dronez) and a sousaphonist (because the sousaphone is the greatest instrument yet created).

Pekko Kappi, over at Space 2, didn’t quite connect with me and I do think that’s a shame. I approved of his playing the jouhikko (a traditional Finnish lyre), I approve of the way he played it (gleefully bowing away in the manner of an eight year old with a junior hacksaw), and I approved of his lyrics (settings of Finnish folk tales that sounded like narrations of Hell Brueghel paintings), but something just didn’t seem to work. I expect I’ll absolutely adore him the next time I encounter him.

Upon wandering past I became aware that Alexander Tucker was playing amongst the Connie Prantera exhibit in Zelig, unadvertised bar a few posters that were more-or-less immediately outside it. I went in immediately upon noticing them, and turned out to be in time for last 2 minutes. I heard some quiet vocals over drones, just enough to wonder and wish that I’d seen how he got up to that point.

Following that, it seemed like an as good a moment as any to exit and show my face in The White Swan and The Anchor. Just to be sociable, likesay.

I returned to see Selfless and their homage to old crusty grind. It’s exactly the same as what they used to play in the olden days when the world was black and white (I’m talking about photocopied record covers, not films), made great fun through ferocity and general funtime exuberance. As any local will tell you, Dunc has the greatest stage banter (“Cor see many books in ‘ere” he wisely noted of The Old Library).

Back to Boxxxxxxed, then, for Drum Eyes. Imagine everything in the world all going on at once (mostly violin, heavy bass and bleepy computer noises, but everything nevertheless), albeit in a strangely tuneful way. There you have your Drum Eyes. This was (nay, is) an extremely good thing, if difficult to describe.

I returned (slightly dazed) to Space 2 and caught the end of Barn Owl, who was doing a shrieky guitar drone. It was another one of those where I couldn’t get much from it and probably needed to have seen what led up to that point.

I followed this with a chicken curry from the Japanese food stall. It was quite nice (although £5 is obviously dearer than anything that comes in a tray really should be, irrespective of quality). This fortified me sufficiently to tramp back over to Boxxxxxxxed, for Iconaclass, which is your man from Dälek’s more traditionally styled hip-hop act. I initially enjoyed a bit of heavy-bass boom-bap, but left when we hit a turntablism section that looked like it wouldn’t ever end (come on now, it’s no morally superior to a guitar solo). Tony Conrad was on in Space 2, and I know he’s very influential and all the rest of it but I nevertheless found myself faced with a distorted violin solo that looked like it wouldn’t ever end and so began to wonder if we’d hit that point in the weekend. Suspicions were confirmed when I moved on to the Old Library and found Cut Hands doing sampled drum solo that looked like it wouldn’t ever end.

I returned to watch a bit more Conrad (the distorted violin solo had not, in fact, ended) before just generally faffing around for a bit. Somehow I always manage to spend some time just generally faffing around at events like this (and, indeed, when it comes to life in general). I eventually returned to Boxxxxxxxxed for Silver Apples, electronic music legend and such. The last time I saw him saw an interesting atmospheric dissonance in the audience – there seemed to be an equal mix of people genuflecting in reverence/awe and people openly laughing at him. This time around your man was suffering from equipment malfunctions a-plenty. I must admit I chuckled to myself when the CD that he was playing for his beats skipped. I got enjoyment from it all in comical way, but if you go in for any solemn temple of art nonsense then this would probably have been horrific. “I Don’t Know” was at least genuinely eerie.

I crossed the Rea again (and by this point I was having to suppress the urge to stop and sing “Old Man River” from the bridge) and headed to Space 2 for Envy. They played post-rock biiiiig (“biiiiig” is a noun, you know) with all those usual sorts of dynamics, but added the chiming guitar of that style of melodic rock stuff that they sometimes describe as post-hardcore (for some reason). Does that make them post-post? Alright-ish, anyway.

A big ending for my weekend was necessary, and so I finished things off with Drunk In Hell in The Old Library. Noise-rock, but times a million billion. They just sort of go “BRRROOOOOAAARGGGGHHHH” with massive riffs and menacing intent, and it’s ace. It’s as though the movement of continents started accelerating. I’ve often thought (by which I mean I’ve just thought for the first time) that there’s only one band at a time in a country who can harness such a degree of raw elemental oomph – Mistress used to be the British representatives, but now it’s Drunk In Hell.

After that, that was me lot. I had fun.

(Checky checky checky The Collective Memory for a whole metric bagful more posts and articles about Supersonic 2011).

Supersonic Boom

Posted in Music by Russ L on 18 November, 2010

Now, I had thought that Capsule having their 2010 Supersonic festival in Oc-bleedin’-tober was something akin to those horrible mascot people waving their jackplug connections at the sky and daring the weather to do its worst, but the prophecy turned out to be largely unfulfilled. There was some rain and it was bloody cold towards the end there, but it could easily have been (approximately) a million billion times more rainy and cold. I do genuinely think a bullet (a precipitatory, shivery bullet) was dodged. The timing actually turned out to be fortuitous in the end – most of us, I think, needed cheering up after the governmental scorched-earth-policy-antics of a few days prior.

Things began to begin on Friday the 22nd: after a quiet getting-my-head-together-pint in The Lamp Tavern (I guessed that all the pubs nearer to the festival site would be stupidly busy. For a very reasonable fee I can plan your pub strategy, too. Hit me up, yo), the time came to approach the Custard Factory and the non-custard-related delights therein. Upon getting through the big ol’ queue and obtaining my stylish “I’ve paid guvnor, look” wristband, I headed straight up to The Old Library stage and immediately fell in love with a lot of what I saw. Great structural improvement number one: In the last few years the third/smallest band stage was in the Medicine Bar/Factory Club, and I’d basically given up on it and accepted that it was a part of the festival I couldn’t get into due to there already being at least fifty-seven-squillion people squashed in there at any given time. The Old Library was still overloaded to the point of one-in/one-out a few times, but it’s far closer to being an appropriate size than the Med Bar was. Great structural improvement number two: There were extra recycling bins scattered around the place. The lack of bin-age is something I’ve complained about after every Supersonic I’ve ever been to, so I was pleased to see this. Great structural improvement number three: A real bar! Apparently the Factory Club-controlled bars elsewhere on site were charging £4.50 per pint of your basic stuff, but here it was £3 for a pint of either Hogans cider, Veltins lager or your Purity ales. Awesome. My one minor complaint (and this wouldn’t be a Russ L blog post without one) simply regards the placing of the thing in the busy Old Library – there were a few times over the weekend when Johnny Punter couldn’t get in to get a drink. This is surely not ideal. I don’t have any particularly good idea about where it could go instead, but there must be somewhere.

The first turn of the weekend, then, were Necro Deathmort. I almost didn’t want to see them – it really would have been heartbreaking if a band with a name as good as “Necro Deathmort” turned out to be rubbish. I was very happy to find that they were really good. Drone melting into doom melting into breakbeats, suggesting stoned indolence building up to weed psychosis. I wish I’d stayed for all of their set, now, but I left halfway through to see some of Gum Takes Tooth on the outside stage. They did a very self-consciously silly digital grind thing, which was reasonably fun. They also did it with carrier bags over their heads, something that I was always told was very dangerous.

I then watched a bit of Demons back in the Old Library, and I recall that I didn’t find them very interesting. I genuinely remember nothing else about them apart from that fact. There’s always one, isn’t there?

The annoyance that high expectations can cause was demonstrated after this, out on the outside stage. Being a grindcore offshoot of Mistress/Nathrakh, I expected Fukpig to have a bit more oomph and be a bit funnier to watch than they actually were. They were every bit as fast and furious as the Read Money Round of yore and they did sprinkle a few odd-sounding guitar leads over the top to vary things up a touch, but they weren’t anywhere near as good as the Strawpig of my imagination.

That was it for my Friday. I would have liked to have seen Napalm Death and PCM (the latter being something of a Supersonic tradition), but I didn’t consider it the end of the world to miss either of them. Meanwhile, if I’d had to get a taxi home on all three nights I would probably have had to have sold some bodily organs to raise the money. And nobody is going to be stupid enough to buy any of my crappy organs. I don’t think that plan would have worked.

Saturday didn’t have the most auspicious of starts. I wanted to go and see the Pigeon thingy, but after wandering back and forth on Floodgate street I couldn’t find any obvious way in to the Rea Garden that was open at about twenty to four (The Rea Garden is what was once The Secret Garden, isn’t it? If not then that would explain a lot, I suppose). I was forced to console myself for the lack of feathery friends by popping into The Anchor for a pint of Cheddar Valley (Friday was ale, Saturday and Sunday were cider). After getting into the CustarFact I flitted between stages but couldn’t find much to love in any of the bits I saw of the first few bands on – A Wild Horse’s Side Parting or whatever they think they’re called (dull soundscapes with a-rhythmic drumming sprinkled over the top), Blue Sabbath Black Fiji (chaos to no particular end), and Eagle Twin (just your typical doom/stoner).

Things picked up more than just a little bit with Lichens in The Old Library and possibly the best combination of music and backing visuals that I’ve ever seen. The music started as an initially shrieky one-note drone, before building into a far lusher texture. The backing projections saw a series of expanding concentric circles, which got more messy and less circular as the set went on. When they first began to take irregular shapes it gave an impression of height/depth, like a hill on some psychedelic ordinance survey map; as they sped up and got more and more chaotic it felt like I was flying into the centre of them, reminding me of that flight scene in “2001”. I was dazed by the end of it all, and I mean that in a very good way.

I nipped over to Space 2 after that to have a look at industrial-doom herberts Gnaw, but I left after a bit. The vocalisings of Alan Dubin (your man from Khanate) may well sound like a smack addict being sick on a baby when heard on record, but they didn’t have as much impact here. Between a touch of disappointment about that and the fact that it I was still reeling from Lichens, this seemed like a good time to pop over to Manzil’s for my tea (lamb Madras and a cheese naan, if you’re int’rested. Nom nom nom).

I returned and spent a little while gently grooving to the gentle grooves of Dosh (nothing too exciting but nothing too likely to hamper digestive processes either, so that was good) on the outside stage before heading into the theatre space for the “Fear Of Music” talk: David Stubbs (Wire journo and author of a book on this subject, which I should very much like to read after this), Christian Jendreiko (German artiste) and Brian Duffy (anyone likely to be reading this is probably already aware of him) discussing why avante garde music doesn’t have quite the same position in popular culture that avante garde visual art does (cf: ten million squillions people going to The Tate Modern each year and so forth), as well as frequently digressing onto other things. This was extremely interesting, and I actually wish I’d taken notes. I even put my hand up to ask a question (this is unlike me), but with my customary lack of eloquence I completely fluffed it and ended up asking something entirely different to what I was thinking. My own fault, of course.

Fantastic as that was, it was a shame that I missed half of King Midas Sound whilst in there. The current guise of your man Kevin Martin from/of Techno Animal/The Bug etc, here bolstered by Roger Robinson and Kiki Hitomi on vocals and sounding like Massive Attack with all the dials pushing well into the red. This is clearly a wondrous thing. There was enough bass to make even the sturdy structure of Space 2 wobble a bit, while Kiki and Roger projected steely confidence in the face of the metaphorical walls closing in.

I had initially only popped up to The Old Library to get another pint of cider after that, but Tweak Bird’s Sabbath-y riffs over interesting rhythms proved both distracting and likeable enough for me to tarry awhile and nod a bit of head. Whilst there, I saw a man give a thumbs-up to one of the recycling bins after throwing something in it. I’m not joking, now – he stood in front of it with a big smile on his face, and gave it a thumbs-up sign. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

It was back over to Space 2 soon enough, though, for one of our main events. Although I absolutely love and adore Godflesh (or a good chunk of their cannon, at the very least), I wasn’t really expecting ‘em to be all that much live. I don’t know why, but I just wasn’t, and as such their “solidly good on the night, actually” turned out really well for me. Concentrating on the older more industrial/less beat-styled stuff, “Like Rats” made for a huge opener but for a good while they were somewhat quieter than anyone might have liked. Happily that got better throughout the set and they were working up a goodly amount of oomph by the end there. I enjoyed ‘em, although I suppose in a distant way it was similar to the time I saw the Pistols a couple of years ago – there are riffs that by this point cause quasi-Pavlovian responses. Like, quite possibly, Rats.

One more and done, then: Melt Banana on the Outside Stage, beginning in their two-piece guise (a smaller version of Melt Banana should quite obviously be referred to as Melt Plantain) before growing an extra couple of heads. This was the fourth time I’ve seen them now and every time their high energy popgrind inspires the biggest of smiles. They’re just so… day-glo. Seeing them is like watching the Japanese dub of “The Teletubbies” after inhaling a massive amount of illuminous paint fumes. As ever, “Nine Short Songs” was the best bit and summed them up as whole – possibly the most effective distillation of pop and punk, delivering the idea and dispensing with the crapola. Yasuko, combining as she does some of the stereotypical Engrish nuttery with a somehow uncommonly dignified air (even when meow-ing “Happy Birthday To You”), is the coolest person on this planet.

Home. Bed.

Due to stupidity (to be more accurate: due to my own stupidity) I arrived slightly later than I intended to on Sunday, and so began by picking up the end of Bong’s set in Space 2. I thought I knew who they were but turned out to have got it wrong – it took me a few days to work out that Bongzilla were the band I was thinking of. Bong were good, though – a mixture of your doom-y drone and your Eastern (Ipswich, possibly) sitar-y drone, creating an enormous sound.

Efterklang-collaborating-sort Peter Broderick did a solo set in The Old Library next and it was fan-daby-dozie, varying between folksy and more compositional pieces and making great use of loop pedal. His last song saw him looping a mournful wail while he steamed into the audience (he was in and out of the crowd a few times) shaking percussion, and suggested the sound of Efterklang meeting Arthur Russell. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a better combination.

Thence to Space 2 for Voice Of The Seven Thunders, the new band of Ricky Tomlinson (by which I mean the fella who used to go as Voice Of The Seven Woods, and not that fella off the telly) and cohorts. Their doings are very definitely within the realms of prog-rock, with a heavy Middle Eastern influence – suggestive of hookah-smoke, rather than the dry ice that most bands hereabouts brought to mind. The songs had a nicely subtle build, too, changing in interesting ways over their course. If all of that sounds too serious for you, be aware that he also told a lovely joke about a slice of cheese between songs.

Food, next, obtained from the Italian stall. The meatballs and sauce were absolutely lovely, but the ciabatta tasted as though it had been left outside all day. Which is probably precisely what had happened, now that I think about it.

I hopped up to the Old Library then to have a look at Ruins, but so did a lot of other people. I bailed before they started (once we reached the point where there was no longer a single cubic inch of space not filled with human flesh) and eventually ended up in Space 2 in front of Mothlite and their 80s goth/synthpop, perhaps a bit like some of your earlier Nine Inch Nails stuff. Their songs weren’t in the slightest bit catchy or memorable, but I did appreciate the necklace of feathers that the singer was wearing – I assume that this was in honour of it being ornithological day at Supersonic (with Swans and Barn Owl playing), and I do have a certain respect for apposite accessorising.

Nissenenmondai. Nissenenenenmondai. Nissenenenenenenenenen&c. Maybe not quite as good as last year’s towering set, but still better than practically anything else in the world that you might choose to name. Their krautrock/prog-house/disco (yeah, really) ascended far above the outside stage and poked the eyes of God. They truly are an astonishingly good live band, and the first of the two on the Sunday that I’d describe as inspiring euphoric feelings.

I needed to reset my jaw to “non-dropped” position after that, and so I nipped out of the festival to The Anchor for a bit. I returned halfway through Factory Floor’s set on the outside stage, and got a “okay-ish” sort of vibe from them. I’m not convinced they justify all of the hype, though – standard electronic blibleblibleblibleblible with a “62 different ways to play the violin” demonstration over the top.

It may or may not have been at this point that I had one of the lovely samosas they were selling at the bar. This may or may not be important.

The Old Library was stupidly, stupidly busy again for Chrome Hoof (as well it might be), but this time I hung on and bore it in the name of Funkdiscokrautrockmetalmothershipmusic. It actually thinned out a fair bit as the set went on, but I was nevertheless somewhat put off. There is a possibility (although it is far from certain) that this is why this time seemed to have the least impact out of the four times I’ve seen them, but even at half strength they’re great. Funkdiscokrautrockmetalspaceshipmusic, as I said. Funkdiscokrautrockmetalspaceshipmusic with silver bacofoil costumes, even. I’m still aggrieved by otherwise sensible people pronouncing “hoof” to rhyme with “roof”, though.

I made sure I’d seen the “Ooh arr, let’s put Gary Bushell in a bubble” one and the “Towards zero, Bermondsey’s in equilibrium” one before bopsing over to Space 2 to make sure I saw at least a little bit of Zeni Geva (massively unfortunate timetable clashes here, having them on opposite Hoof and Hallo, although given the amount of fantastic stuff there was all weekend it’s amazing that this was the only big one for me). I didn’t get to hear very much, but it seemed pretty good while I was there – a real savage sound, just like you want from Zeni Geva.

I was really happy about the fact that Hallogallo 2010 (on the outside stage) were everything I wanted them to be. They’re Michael Rother of Neu!’s current band (if y’didn’t know), playing Neu! stuff amongst various other things, and I’m the sort of fella who thinks “Neu! 75” is as fine an album as ever you’ll hear. They had that advancing feel that you want/get from anything Neu!-related (I promise that’s the last time in this paragraph that I’m going to use that bandname that sounds like someone from the six counties enthusiastically saying “no”), but also a huge dollop of pip-pip-cheerio excitable energy, too. Combined with the general good vibes you get in a “hey we’re looking at a legend” situations, this was all really very uplifting – the second band of the day that I’d describe as euphoric. The motorik motored along, but not exclusively; they even sounded a little bit breakbeat-ish right at the end there.

Finally, at the end of this somewhat spectacular weekend, we had Swans. The purists may wish to look away now. My reactions to their set were no doubt influenced in no small way by the fact that during it I was tired (I think I did really well all weekend, but by this point it was leaning on me), I was very cold (as I said at the top – the weather was astonishingly good for the end of October, but by this point it genuinely was bitter) and Iantention was saying words at me (force of nature, nothing you can do about that), but… well they weren’t bad. There was a strong air of restrained force for long stretches, and very occasionally the sonic violence for which they are known burst forward and they captured that almost ritualistic feel I’ve been known to get from them on record. At other times, though, they didn’t have much impact. I do not find myself in agreement with most of the rapturous accounts I’ve read since then.

It matters not. This was definitely the best Supersonic yet, and that’s no small compliment. Joint-best-band-awards have to go to Lichens, Melt Banana, Nissenenmondai and Hallogalo (whilst Peter Broderick and King Midas Sound were very close behind them). If a similar quality of line-up could be replicated in future combined with a shift of the bar to somewhere more convenient and a return to the whole affair happening in July, I think I’d probably explode with happiness.

(Many other folks have written/photographed/filmed/drawn – check them out via the Collective Memory).

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.

Brutal psychedelia, semantic dissonance and pints of lovely apple beverage: Supersonic 2009

Posted in Music by Russ L on 5 September, 2009

Supersonic 2009, 24th-26th of July (inclusive): I will recap this via three categories, I think.

The Good

~ Nisennenmondai (Saturday evening): Nisennenmondai did some sort of “Alice…” kinda thing where they’re tiny but start playing and it’s like they’ve eaten an “Eat Me” and grown by about four hundred miles. Either that or they just sounded really big. The best set of the festival, anyway, and they got the reception from the crowd to prove it. They live somewhere between Battles and Neu with maybe a twist of Lightning Bolt too, creating a driving and constantly building instrumental sound. The nutty drummer makes a great contrast to the other two more demure types.

~ Theo (Sunday afternoon): Joint-second-best. Your man (on his Jack Jones) guitars for a bit, loops that, then slings the axe over his back and drums for a bit, before looping that etc etc. Eeeeeveryone is using loop pedals nowadays (I heard an ice-cream van layering it’s choons the other day. Or maybe I just wanted to, I forget) but it’s the quality that’s important, and this lad created a wonderfully intricate-and-detailed but still high-energy mathsrock business.

~ Earthless (Sunday evening): The other joint-second-best. They weren’t as Southern as I was expecting (I reckon I may have become confused between tracks on the Brumcast preview podcasts, although I’m not sure who that means I actually was thinking about. Someone I didn’t see, anyway). I’m hesitant to call them ‘stoner rock’ as others have, and will instead go with the “brutal psychedelia” appellation that a wise man suggested afterwards. Or something. Loooong songs with lots (and I really mean lots) of widdly-wah guitar, but all serving the purpose of taking you on an adventure into the heart of a rocking sun. Or something.

~ The catering situation: The food/drink provisions for the hungry/thirsty masses this year was better than one might ever have expected. The Hogan’s Organic Cider Crizzew were selling pints of their lovely apple beverage for £3 (dear, obviously, but not really all that obscene given that we’re at a festival-type-affair), and Purity (your young funky fresh real-ale that doesn’t market itself towards old men like other breweries who are all SQUARES anyway) had nearly-a-pint bottles available for £3.50. The generic kegged lager and cider from the main bars were £4 per pint, and thus only purchased by certain kinds of mor-ron, or perhaps those particularly and overwhelmingly committed to lager and lager alone (these probably aren’t the same thing, but may be). The Hogan’s was really nice though, you honestly should’ve tried it if you’re one of this lot who seem to be unhappy about having paid more for things that weren’t as good. The Thai food stall was nice if expensive (it doesn’t matter precisely what it is, if it’s served in a polystyrene tray then £5 is expensive for any kind of food. This was of course a lot nicer than practically anything else you’ll ever get in a polystyrene tray), and I can officially reveal to the world that a “100% Cornish BBQ” is in fact a burger/barbeque/etc stand that additionally-but-separately sells pasties and clotted cream. They don’t put them on the barbeque grill. They’re not certain kinds of mor-ron.

~ PCM (Friday night): UK drum’n’bass all in your face. A touch funkier and less head-wreckin’ than usual, I thought, with some squelchy rave-synth sounds that I don’t recall them using quite so much before. Great fun. I’m glad they didn’t use Bolt Throwerman again this time – that was fun at first but the novelty has run its course.

~ Tartufi (early Saturday evening): Hard indeed to describe, but worth the effort of checking out if you get the chance. Noisy pop, perhaps, marrying frequently-changing song structures to some really catchy hooks, and assortment of different instruments, loop pedals (yes, yes), and a ridiculously broad sound. Apparently they’re American. I thought someone had told me they were Belgian. They were probably on the verge of going into the ‘joint second best’ category with Earthless and Theo, but let down ever so slightly by occasionally trying a bit too tough to be ‘epic’ for their own good. Only occasionally, though.

~ Iron Lung (Saturday evening): I was amazed to learn that the band I saw supporting Municipal Waste in Dudley (“Doodley”, as they had it) last year are considered by many to be legends/really important. Quite good, anyway – fast shouty hardcore/grind (‘power violence’, if you will. Truly the most fantastic genre name this side of ‘krunk’), with inhumanly tight and precise stopping/starting/rhythm-changing. The singer-come-drummer is clearly a frustrated stand-up comedian, bless him.

~ Thorr’s Hammer (Saturday night): I wasn’t expecting a lot (oh, cynic), but I enjoyed them. Doomy huge riffs met a pleasingly happy onstage attitude, in contrast to the pomposity that so often attends this sort of thing. Runhild Gammelsæter (a dream of a name for a metal singer, it has to be said) was downright giggly, bless her heart. And also, yes: huge riffs.

~ Zu (Saturday night): I only saw the middle bit of their set, but it was bloody ace energetic jazz-rock sort of stuff, although that doesn’t really do them any justice at all as a description. Saxamophone, saxamaphone, with turbo-charged rhythms. I wished I’d stopped with them a bit longer, actually – in retrospect it would have been worth missing the start of Corrupted.

~ Corrupted (Saturday night): Dooooooom. Corrupted are one of those bands who are considered legends those who A) have heard of them, and B) are the sort of people likely to consider them legends. They sounded huge with a capital Hyoo. On the verge, perhaps, of overdoing it a touch with the post-rock style jangly guitar build-up bits (they never felt like anything more than a build-up, that was the trouble. If I’d been wearing a watch I would probably have checked it at times) but I suppose that when they kicked in the light & shade thing really did work. They did sound absolutely corruscating when hitting it, too. Bosting stuff and no doubt it’s an “Ah, yes, I saw Corrupted once…” tale to tell the doomster grandchildren.

~ Nancy Wallace (Sunday afternoon): I only arrived in time for her last song-and-a-half, but her voice & guitar and the (very attractive) violinist combined to make an absolutely lovely folksy sound.

~ Zzz (Sunday afternoon): A mix betwixt Depeche Mode, Suicide and Dead Or Alive. The chaos/noise bit they briefly had a stab at was absolutely and entirely unconvincing, but other than that they were great keyboardy fun.

~ Khyam Allami (early Sunday evening): Played traditionally-styled Syrian music on the oud (a bit like a lute? It makes that jruangly type of sound I associate with Middle Eastern music. “Jruangly” is a word I’ve just made up to describe that sound that sounds like “jruanglllle”). He seemed surprised but genuinely really happy to be well received, which was quite nice for all concerned. Then, he covered “Black Sabbath”. On the oud. Awesome.

~ The Memory Band (Sunday evening): Apparently they were playing “The Wicker Man” soundtrack, although I wouldn’t know since I’ve never seen it (yes, yes, we know, heresy and so on). Very effectively creepy nursery rhyme-ish folk, from my perspective.

~ Head Of David (Sunday night): Intriguing: their sound seemed to me to be closer to what would often be called noise-rock than what would often be called industrial, in spite of the fact that it was actually closer to the sort of panel-bashing rhythms that you’d associate with industry than it was to anything like free-form noise. Interesting semantic dissonance, ar kid – yow can tell they’m proppa folk from the Black Country like we.

~ Caribou (Sunday night): The last band, for me. They sounded absolutely nothing like the gentle psychedelia found on the recorded bits’n’bobs I heard, and were instead more like some energetic post-rock thing hopping up into big rhythmic drum freakouts. Good fun but I only saw a bit before needing to leave. A whole weekend o’tiredness was beginning to settle on me.

~ People: This is uncharacteristic for me, I realise, but I give shouts to the actual audience – firstly I didn’t have to negotiate too many unpleasantly dense crowds (no idea how many folk were there, but they were spread out a lot more nicely than they might have been) and secondly I bumped into a lot of lovely bredrins and sistrins who I hadn’t seen for ages/don’t see very often. Aaaw.

~ Boids: There was, of course, “There Are No Others…” (Or maybe there wasn’t. Weren’t. My head hurts. I suppose there was a titular absence of others, so “there was” is permissible) (see here, whichever way up) (anyway: BIRDS~!); there was also the bird-shaped-cushion I bought from one of the merchandise stalls to take back to Louise. I named him ‘Poultry’. He was later re-named ‘Percy’.

~ Bunny Bissoux’ “Petting Zoo” pictures: Really cute. I absolutely love the lion that you can see at the bottom-central-left here. I’m still claiming responsibility for giving Capsule the idea to have this made, too, whether or not the actual artist knows a thing about that (I suspect she probably doesn’t).

The Bad

~ Sunno))) (Friday night)))): When you can barely breathe for dry ice you know it’s time for Sunnoparenthesisification. Or a Sisters Of Mercy gig, perhaps. One of the two. I only watched a little bit before wondering off to see Scorn, admittedly, but after the intro tape had ended and their performance had started (figuring out the precise point at which this happens is not the easiest feat) they went “Buuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” for the ten minutes or so I bothered with. As, obviously, is their custom. I think they could be interesting as a kind of endurance test if they actually were as loud as popular legend claims that they’re supposed to be, but on neither of the time-and-a-bits that I’ve sent them has this been the case (at least a couple of folks whose stuff I’ve read from the Collective Memory seem to have been carrying portable decibel meters and reckon that this hit that 130db-ish plane-taking-off range. I am as deaf as a post, admittedly, but that really doesn’t sound even approximately close to right to me))).

~ Diagonal (early Saturday evening): Erm, I know that I definitely saw at least some of their set but I don’t remember the slightest thing. I don’t recall them as specifically bad, but not making any impact at all can’t be a good thing.

~ Trying to keep the rain from falling into my cider whilst walking between stages on Sunday: A pain in the arse. The weather was OK otherwise, though.

~ Tiredness and aching: Clearly I am a complete and total Jessie.

~ Travelling by taxi: This was necessary for the journeys home on the first two nights. It’s not a cheap hobby.

~ Missing some of the bands that were worth seeing: I signed off Venetian Snares (who I would particularly have liked to see) and Monotonix as being casualties of playing in the middle of the morning, and now everybody seems to be saying they were particular highlights. Bah. I didn’t get around to getting my name down for the list-only Pram performance beforehand, either. Bah.

The Middling

~ Scorn (Friday night): Not as good as I wanted, but I think that may mostly have been due to me having the wrong kind of expectations – this was more of a ‘minimal electronics’ sort of affair than the thick swamp of dub that I was looking forward to. I spent a fair bit of the set chatting to The Infamous John Matie (I hadn’t seen him for a year) in the other room of The Med Bar and Scorn’s set made ace background music for that, though.

~ Rose Kemp (Saturday afternoon): Whilst it seemed like a theme for quite a few acts over the weekend, Rose Kemp took “sounding very different live to on record” to a ludicrous degree. Her voice was a hell of a lot more shrill than I expected, and accompanied only by big dragged-out doomy chords. At some points this came together to create a hellish sound, whilst at others it sounded like half baked hit-the-guitar-and-howl improvisation. There was also some very extensive swearing and amp-fiddling between songs. Lots and lots of each. It’s nice to have hobbies.

~ “Home Of Metal” talk (Saturday evening): After a fun little documentary about the project, there was an on-stage interview Johnny Doom, Nic Bullen and a couple of Sunno))) blokes. With the mics helpfully turned down really quiet. I left halfway through – I would actually have liked to stay and strain to hear for a bit longer (not being sarcy) but I absolutely did not want to miss any of Nisennenmondai.

~ The Accused (Saturday night): They sounded really Poison Idea-esque on the recorded bits I’d heard, but more like a generic sloppy 80s thrash band live. They did have their moments though.

~ Esoteric (Sunday afternoon): I think I was probably all-doomed-out by this point. They had effective chunky riffs and a big sound, but just didn’t really get to me. The atmospheric sample bits (dripping taps sounds etc) probably would have worked a lot better in less massive venue. Your man’s Prince/Madonna stylee headset mic was a nice touch, though, although there were no dance routines to make the most of it.

~ Arbouretum (sic) (early Sunday evening): I only saw a little bit of their set – 70s folky prog sorta thing. Seemed OK-ish.

~ Jarboe (Sunday evening): Ooh, she’s an enigma, that Jarboe. Or wants to be, at the very least. Hippy-doom this time around, perhaps (ah, it makes sense in my mind), but the way that she appeared to have such great regard for the magical spiritual worth of what she was doing really did get irritating.

~ 65DaysOfStatic (Sunday night): Post-rock with d’n’b styled imitation breakbeats. I liked bits of the bit of their set I saw, but (as a tweet from I-don’t-know-whom that seems to have fallen off the internet said) every song seems trying so very hard to be all big and epic. Their stage manner was very different but somehow related to that of Jarboe – in their case they seemed supremely convinced of their own ability to Rock The Hizouse. Plenty about them to get on the ol’ nerves, all in all, but they did have some fun moments.

* * *

Not quite matching up to last year’s best Supersonic evaaarrr, but still plenty good enough. Next one please. Again again again.

Check out The Collective Memory for a whole bag o’ links to things other people have said.

Supervisual

Posted in Films, Music, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 5 September, 2009

Supersonic was over a month ago and so I suppose I really had better get on with posting something about it. A brief few words first, however, about what might be considered the Supersonic Fringe Art Festival. Or something. There are always a few exhibitions/installations dotted around that are connected-to but not-actually-part-of the festival; there are also always completely unrelated exhibitions/installations dotted around, as with every other week of the year. Johnny Supersonic Punter could, if he so wished, head out (with, perhaps, his mom and his rabbity friend) on the Saturday before the actual festival and have a look at some of them. Let me warn you, JSP – it’s interesting but it makes for a long day.

Larks started, then, with the Matthew Boulton exhibition at BMAG, which was quite interesting. The thought occurs that the fact he isn’t widely and nationally celebrated to the same degree as many of the other 19th century industrial figures we all know and love is possibly yet another result of the ridiculously Southern+Manchester-centric tendencies of the media in this country, but that’s a separate rant.

Travelling hence to Digbeth, we skipped Participation at Vivid (it was advertised as being free, but upon arriving there was a sign on the door with the price listed. This is very, very annoying) and I have no idea at all what the Tatham & O’ Sullivan at Eastside projects was trying to get across to me. Raqs Media Collective’s “When The Scales Fall From Your Eyes at Ikon eastside spoke a little bit more: the room was filled with busts that in place of heads had scales filled with sundry objects, attempting to lead one to wonder about the spurious significance (‘weight’) we afford to our prosaic everyday crapola. That link there suggests the artists wonder about the value of measurements and quantification in general, which I’m not sure I like. “Try doing without it, then watch the buildings collapse and the planes fall out of the sky” seems to be the obvious response. I know that’s a bit flip, but the emotional/psychic-wellbeing types of things that can’t/shouldn’t be measured generally, y’know, aren’t. Having said all this, though, I do think that in that sort of vein the widely-accepted validity of IQ tests (“I am ten more intelligent than you”) is quite possibly the stupidest meme to have gained common currency. And there are some pretty bloody stupid memes to have gained common currency.

The other one actually linked to Supersonic was There Are No Others, There Are Only Us by Marc Frost, at Moor Street Station. I really liked this. A little curtained-off enclave contained beanbags and a screen, onto which was projected a film of an enormous flock of birds, filmed in Denmark. It appeared more like a swarm than a flock – there was definitely something insectoid about the way they arranged into patterns before dissolving into chaos. The really spectacular and captivating images were married to various soundtracks, and played one after the other – we, happily, arrived during an Einstellung (I like them) one.

I nearly fell asleep between the comfy beanbags and darkness, though. I actually did briefly consider popping back in later for a nap.

After that it was time to head back out of the city centre, over to Perrot’s Folly in Edgbaston for Yukio Fujimoto’s “The Tower Of Time”. Yukio, as you may recall, was the chappy who played choooons on pocket calculaters at S’Sonic last year. This (aside from being a nice chance to see the inside of the tower, which I never have before. Is it open in normal circumstances? I don’t think so but I’m not sure) consisted of 1,111 clocks (well…little plastic boxes with one ticking rotating hand) arranged in the rooms adjoining to the spiral staircase as you ascend – one in the first, then ten, then 100, then a thousand. Collectively the sound of them ticking towards the top created an unusual hiss – an overall sound like white noise, but one in which you could make out each individual click. The sight of them all moving out of kilter was interesting, as well: for the second time in the day the adjective ‘insectoid’, came to mind, as the arms jerked forward before stopping like individual limbs in a huge swarm of locusts. I have no idea what big idea any of this was trying to convey, but it was a really fun combination of sights and sound.

So there we are. A post about the festival itself will follow soon-ish.

Super, Sonic, Great

Posted in LOTTSADITWM, Music by Russ L on 21 July, 2009

And lo, Capsule’s annual Supersonic festival at The Custard Factory in Birmingham’s Digbeth (the Irish/arts/disused factories/SILENCE, YOU quarter) inexorably advances upon us like one of those scary street-hooverer-vehicle-things with the big brushes on the front. Scare the bloody life out of me, them bleeders.

SssssSonic, conversely, fills me with joy. This year it is held between the 24th (that would be this coming Friday) and the 26th (that would be this coming Sunday. This coming Saturday will be between the two, in the customary fashion) and – as ever – features a load of bands that everyone else has heard of apart from me. On the off chance that you don’t already know the lot, I’d recommend the preview podcasts that Brumcast have assembled as a starting point: part one and part two will give you an intro to a fair few of the acts a-playing (on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, if you’re looking for the timetables).

The headliners are a mixed bag for me: call me crap at liking music if you must, but neither Goblin nor SunnO)))parentheseseseseses))) hold a particularly large amount of attraction. Japanese dooooooooooom-types Corrupted should be good, though, as long as they don’t come across as toooooooooo samey live, and breakcore/IDM/lunacy-merchant Venetian Snares will be ace if he can actually be bothered to get on stage and do a set this time around (word had it last time he came to Brum that he refused to play because the venue had the wrong brand/make of CD player, although I can’t really remember if that’s a rumour I heard or a rumour I started). I don’t really know industrial-rockers Head Of David all that well (there’s half a week left, gimme time) but the bits I’ve heard sound like fun.

Things of note elsewhere, then:

~ Scorn’s dark-arsed industrial dub will be ace, but since he’s on at same time as Sunno)))bracketseseseses))) I’m slightly concerned that he might not be easy to hear. I’m even more concerned that the combined bass of the two acts might be enough to get all of Digbeth shut down forever.

~ I saw rhythmic instrumental Japanese ladies Nisennenmondai supporting Acid Mothers Temple last August and thought they were really very good – the missing link between Can and Battles, perhaps. I also enjoyed the great bit of lost-in-translation-ification from their recent interview in that “Stool Pigeon” freesheet thing – “What’s your new album about?” “It’s about £10.”

~ Earthless were completely unknown to me until I listened to the above podcasts and are still pretty unfamiliar, but I’m liking what I’ve heard so far of their cross between Comets On Fire, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Corrosion Of Conformity and The Edgar Winters Group.

~ When I first saw the name Rose Kemp around, I’d assumed it was a band using a fairly poor pun on “Ross Kemp”. Cruel and unfortunate fate has it that it’s actually an individual’s real name. Poor cow. What’s good, though, is her Jeff-Buckley-in-a-folk-metal-band sound.

~ The Accused – ‘Splatter Rock’ sez they, ‘fun metallic punk ala Poison Idea’ sez me.

~ Bunny Bissoux will be creating Petting Zoo-themed artwork. The artist herself probably won’t be aware, but I’m claiming credit/responsibility for giving Capsule the idea of this. And I’m doing so whether it’s actually true or not.

~ Stuff elsewhere: I’m always slightly surprised that no real fringe festival has ever evolved for Supersonic (given the large audience and full complement of national/international folk travelling inwards you’d think there’s be all sorts of related things going on around the outsides, whether officially connected with the festival or not. Or is that just me?), but even without that there is stuff a-happening. On the way there (well… on the way if you’re coming from roughly the same place as me. If you’re not coming from roughly the same place as me then I won’t rub it in, you probably feel bad enough as it is) former Soup’n’Sonic guest Yukio Fujimoto has his The Tower Of Time installation at Perrott’s Folly in Edgbaston (in which the ticking of 1,111 clocks blurs into supertone white noise as you ascend the tower), and then at Moor Street Station you can see There Are No Others, There Is Only Us (boids and Ben Frost). Once out into Digbeth, Ikon Eastside has When The Scales Fall From Your Eyes (visual exploration of alledged modern obsession with weights and measures), Vivid has Participation – The Film And Video Workshop Movement 1979-1991 (wot film-makers dun in the 80s), and Eastside Projects has Does Your Contemplation Of The Situation Fuck With The Flow Of Circulation ( I’m really not sure, but there are some pretty pictures at that link). If the metal at S’Sonic ain’t quite consistently proper-metal enough for you, meanwhile, Testament are playing at The Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton on Saturday night (about twenty minutes on the train from New Street Station).

~ Surrounding establishments: Make sure you pop into The Rainbow while you’re in that neck of the woods and buy a pint or two to help them raise money for their troubles. The Lamp Tavern on Barford Street is probably the best drinkin’ pub in Digbeth, although most of ‘em round there are good. Manzils on the High Street (head back towards Selfridges from The Custard Factory and it’s on your right when you’re nearly there) is a reasonable place for a curry.

~ Onsite stuff: THERE IS NO CASH MACHINE IN THE CUSTARD FACTORY SO GET YOUR MONEY OUT BEFOREHAND (doesn’t make any difference to me – West Brom Building Society represent – but this is something that seems to be a big deal for a lot of people). If previous years are anything to go by (and there’s no reason why they necessarily should be, so don’t come crying to me if this plan doesn’t work) then there will be big queues and crowds at opening time (9pm) on the Friday, but you can usually pick up your wristband a little while before then if you have a ticket-in-advance. I’d do that and then head back to the pub for a bit if I were you. Let’s not have too many of you steaming into The Lamp, though, I’ll want some peace and quiet.

~ If the weather is anything other than ‘temperate’ and I find out which one of you is responsible then you’ll be for it, mate. Be warned.

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

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 30 June, 2009

Summer is here, ayit. Blimey it’s hot.

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

Wednesday the 1st – Wayside & Woodland night @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – An interesting-looking evening of ambient/electronica/post-rock/kindathing. Features (amongst many other things) a DJ set from Xela, who I was into for a good while before I realized that he was the son of a bloke who worked at our place.

Thursday the 2nd till Saturday the 4th – “The Tiger Who Came To Tea” (Nick Brook & Kenny Way Ltd) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – I’ve always wanted a tiger to turn up for tea at my house. “Tea time mayhem” and “clumsy chaos” are promised. Tigers are awesome.

Thursday the 2nd – “Pilot” (various theatre companies, hosted by Stan’s Café) @ The A.E. Harris Building, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Nine short plays, many of them site-specific. Anything touched by the hand of Stan’s Café is usually very good indeed.

Friday the 3rd until Sunday the 12th – The Birmingham International Jazz Festival @ various different venues, mostly in Brum – Featuring such outstandingly named acts as “The Fantabulous Sheepwash Playboys” and “The Shuffling Hungarians”.

Friday the 3rd – The Big Bang @ The Victoria, Birmingham – Album launch gig for the good quality local darkness ‘n’ rollers.

Saturday the 4th till Sunday the 26th – Yukio Fujimoto’s “The Tower Of Time” @ Perrot’s Folly, Edgbaston, Birmingham – The ticking of 1,111 clocks builds as you climb the tower, approaching white noise as you get to the sixth floor up. Yukio’s pocket-calculator music at last year’s Supersonic was ace.

Saturday the 4th – The Jewellery Quarter Festival @ all over The Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Including a guest appearance from Matthew Boulton, which should be quite the time-travelling spectacle.

Saturday the 4th – The Kings Heath Big Party/York Road Street Party @ Kings Heath Park and York Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham – All sorts of music and fun and laughter, with ‘an old fashioned charabanc’ to transport you between the two sites. A street party in the York Road near me would be an horrific thing to imagine, but I’m sure the one in Kings Heath is lovely.

Saturday the 4th – ‘Fudgestock’ @ The Public, West Bromwich – Various bands play to raise money for Breast Cancer Awareness. This is undoubtedly a good thing, but dear lord what a rubbish name for an event.

Saturday the 4th – “For You” (Music Theatre Wales) @ The Rep, Birmingham – AKA ‘The Iain McEwan Opera”.

Saturday the 4th – “Goldilocks And How Many Bears?” (Krazy Kat Theatre Company) @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – This one is BYOB: Bring Your Own Bear (if you need to borrow one then make sure you don’t fall victim to ursury usury. Arf).

Sunday the 5th – boxing (First Team & Warrior Promotions) @ The Tower Ballroom, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Including the D. Mitchell vs Martin Concepcion rematch that was meant to be happening last month.

Sunday the 5th – Latin American Festival @ Victoria Square, Birmingham – With salsa, limbo and tango shows, ‘funky feathers’, amigos and American Mercenaries bringing down non-right-wing governments.

Monday the 6th – Prefuse 73 @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Our Louise has trouble distinguishing between Jill Scott and Gil Scott-Heron. Introducing an artist named Guillermo Scott Herren (for that is Prefuse 73’s real name) into the equation seems deliberately unfair.

Wednesday the 8th till Saturday the 11th – “The Importance Of Being Earnest” (Stourbridge Theatre Company) @ Himley Hall, Wombourne – “A HANDBAG?” See also: the 30th of this month.

Friday the 10th – Einstellung / Mothertrucker @ The Flapper, Birmingham – You could see this as a warm-up for Supersonic, I suppose.

Saturday the 11th till Thursday the 18th – “Dad’s Army” (Oldbury Repertory Players) @ The Oldbury Rep, Langley – Don’t tell him your name, Pike.

Saturday the 11th – “The Black Maze” (Stan’s Café) @ Cannon Hill Park, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A maze in the back of a wagon. Stan’s Café are ace.

Wednesday the 15th until Saturday the 19th of September – “Little Shop Of Horrors” @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – Feeeeeed me, Seymour.

Wednesday the 15th – Carina Round @ The Bar Academy, Birmingham – I’ve probably already said pretty much everything I’ll ever be able to say about ‘Rina.

Friday the 17th – boxing (First Team Promotions) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Apparently dubbed ‘The Summer Slammer’, which sounds like more of an MMA name to me.

Sunday the 19th – Birmingham Eid Mela 2009 @ Kings Heath Park, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Including kabbadi matches! Oh my life that will be awesome.

Tuesday the 21st – The Autumn Store night @ The Victoria, Birmingham – A warm-up indie-pop do for the Indietracks festival in Derbyshire.

Wednesday the 22nd – “The Traveling Picture Show” (7 Inch Cinema) @ The Light House, Wolverhampton – 7 Inch Cinema’s touring film programme for kids and adults. Involves bugs, beasts, magic boxes and red balloons.

Thursday the 23rd till Saturday the 25th – “The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband” (Highbury Theatre Centre) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Adulterous chappy gets munched. “One from the vaults…”

Friday the 24th till Sunday the 26th – Supersonic 2009 @ The Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham – My Favourite Annual Event, headlined this year by Head Of David, Corrupted and Goblin, alongside (of course) many many others. I may or may not write a post on its own about it in the next couple of weeks (it’s probably not likely, in all honesty, although you never know) but for the time being have a little listen to this Soup’n’Sonic themed podcast (disclaimer: I haven’t done so myself yet).

Friday the 24th – Roy Ayers @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – The less famous version of Stevie Wonder, perhaps.

Saturday the 25th – Testament @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Air guitar on the mic stand in no small amounts (this is a good thing).

Sunday the 26th – Geocaching taster day @ Nimmings Wood Car Park, Clent Hills, Hagley – A ‘high tech treasure hunting game’. You’re given GPS equipment and have to find the hidden containers dotted around the place, by the looks of it.

Tuesday the 28th – Emiliana Torrini @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – Dunka dunka dugga dugga dun dun.

Thursday the 30th till Saturday the 1st of August – “The Importance Of Being Earnest” (Tread The Boards Theatre Company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – “A HANDBAG?” See also: the 8th of this month.

Supersonic 2008 – the belated blog post

Posted in Music by Russ L on 4 September, 2008

I began writing this on the day after Supersonic, and was sat in front of the computer wondering just how I was meant to cope with the nonsensical situation of living in a world in which there aren’t people trying to blow your brain out of your ears with basstones in a post-industrial arts complex. I didn’t and indeed don’t like this here world. There was a time, prior to 9pm on Friday the 11th of July, when Soup’n’Sonic wasn’t happening. We’ve since had to go back to that dark age. It ain’t right. Maybe this outright wrongness is why it has taken me two months to post this. Or maybe I’m just a lazy arse. Maybe it’s too early to say.

Re-re-wind, when the crowd says X+X=0 selectah. I’ve left it long enough to realise that I’m not going to get around to writing a proper post about it, so here are the notes I initially tapped out weeks ago in the manner of so many primates bashing at keyboards in an attempt to spell ‘Rosencrantz’. I may, nay will add to or alter them where A) it occurs to me that there is more that reallyreallyreally needs to be said; or B) they don’t make sense; or C) it occurs to me that they reallyreallyreally need to make sense.

Off to The Custard Factory on the 11th I bally well went, then. Larks began on The Outside Stage (which I didn’t really deviate from all night) with Cutting Pink With Knives, my old mucker/comrade/former guvnor Al‘s band playing their last ever gig in Britain. They do a sort of loopy grind come synthpop (Trencher with the silliness turned up to eleven is not a good comparison at all, but I can’t think of a fat lot else), with a large amount of running around and a pile of wacky stage banter that was initially annoying but grew more likeable by the end. Really fun start. I hope ‘throwing your guitar into the air and catching it’ is an event in the 2012 Olympics.

This was the fifth time I’d seen Rolo Tomassi and by far the best. They sounded downright epic at times. Savage then ethereal, turning on a sixpence between the two. A couple of new tunes did both seem very similarly structured on first listen, but still good (of course). Best set of the Friday.

PCM’s dancefloor wrecking d’n’b was next. Ace. Karl from Bolt Thrower joined them as per couple of years ago, and although he once again proved to be more of a cosmetic touch than a big addition to the music you can’t help grinning at him. Big salute to the woman doing jumpstep-stylee dancing.

Dalek were the highlight of Supersonic 2005 for me, conjuring up the sound of the apocalypse as the sky above got darker. Their noisy abstract hip-hop didn’t seem quite as good as that this time and even ended up feeling a bit one-paced at times, but they were still storming. DJ Oktopus’ strutting chicken walk up and down the back of the stage was also hugely impressive.

That was it for the Friday for me, then. I was yawning my little head off and wanted to be half-awake for…

Saturday~! Frolics a-started on The Outside Stage with Cath & Phil Tyler and their lovely bluegrass/folk/sacred harp. Beautiful and intense with some interesting lyrics, they made a great start to the day. Cath’s pregnancy bump apparently objected to proceedings at times but she soldiered on with her very dry wit. I also liked the fact that while she was singing she stood like the Prince Regent taking acting lessons in “Blackadder The Third”. Extra vocal power from BUFFALO STANCE.

Over to The Medicine Bar thence to see the last half of Alexander Tucker’s set. Well, not ‘see’, as such, or at least not for a while. It was very busy. Eventually I managed to get from the bar to a point where I had a view of some of the stage, but I was still in the next room. Between this and the “pinned up against the shutters at the back while trying to watch VOTSW” incident last year I have concluded that it’s not worth bothering to attempt to see anyone in the Med Bar on a Saturday at future Supersonics. Alexio was great, anyway, as far as I could tell. His steadily building themes seemed gentler/proggier than the last time I saw him, and less rocky/noisy (perhaps even a bit folky during parts) but still wonderful. I don’t know whether or not to attribute that to the fact that he had a band with him on this occasion. Lovely stuff nevertheless.

It was over to Space 2 (formerly The Rojac Building/arches warehouse) for The Courtesy Group next, and I really wondered about whether playing on a big stage would work for them. The answer was yes. Oh good god yes. Their Beefheart/Fall/yesyesyesnocomparisonsreallyhelp mania was amplified rather than dwarfed, the sound was clear and the bass had the volume that I realised it could always have done with every time I’d seen them previously. They played quite a few new songs if I recall (A Good Thing. Much as I love them, they do seem to have been playing the same stuff forever now), Al acted the giddy goat as usual, and they were amaaazing.

Magnetophone were a bit of a cipher to me, back over on The Outside Stage. A bit dancey at times and a bit psychedelic at others, but in spite of watching nearly all of their set I didn’t feel like I got a distinct idea of them. I quite enjoyed them though.

It may have been at this point that I had a green Thai curry from one of the food stalls, or it may have been later. It was surprisingly nice for food-in-a-tray, whichever way up.

Efterklang are a band you need to see if you haven’t already. If you have, you need to see them again. Best set of the festival. That’s all I have to say on the matter.

Space 2 again after this, for Oxbow. I’d got the idea that they were a bit more outre than they actually are. More-or-less just basic rock, really (some Helmet bits, some Zep riffs) but reasonably good stuff. The geezer didn’t half go on about the fact that he couldn’t get any wine, though. That got boring after not particularly long. Most of the other accounts I’ve read of Supah-sonic seem to go on about how inteeeense Oxbow were; I dunno. While listening attentively to the music all weekend, I was doing a lot of texting (the astute will figure out why) and quite often not watching the stage as much. Physical intensity may well have passed me by at times.

(Actually it may have been at this point I had my green Thai curry. Really not sure).

Fuck Buttons in Space 2 next, the third time I’ve seen them but the first in a big venue that allowed the stadium techno half of their sound to shine through as well as the more customary glitchy noise half. The live percussive bit will probably never be as good as first time I saw them, but it was quite fun. I was very tired by this point and my attention was drifting in and out; the interesting thing is that during my more-awake moments they didn’t seem at their best, but they did feel quite hypnotic while I was slipping away.

Finally, the lovely Battles (still in Space 2). They were definitely sounding more ragged than on either of the previous times I’d seen them, but glorious nevertheless. Grooving and poppy yet still twiddly and choppy. You already know them, though.

On Sunday, it seems, all draft everything/anything had run out. Uh-huh. It wasn’t long before most sensible-sized bottles (we’re basically looking at Magners. It was £3 for a big bottle of that or £3 for a much smaller bottle of whatever else) ran out too. Uh-huh.

Einstellung opened The Outside Stage. This turned out to have been the third time I’d seen them (I really thought there had been more than that, for some reason), and possibly the best (there seem to be quite a few bands like that over the course of the weekend). The larger scale helped their big driving Krautpunk songs sound epic.

I somehow get the feeling that Transitional (in Space 2) may not like the comparison, but Godflesh really seemed writ large to me. That dark drone and industrial sort of thing was good, but really begged the obvious comparison.

Max Tundra (back at The Outside Stage) was ace! And completely unexpected! Synth-pop with bits of all sorts of other stuff. Like Justin Timberlake meeting Mike In Mono with ravey bits and proggy techno bits and lord knows what else. He was a great entertainer, too.

I switched back to Space 2 again after that, to hear the last bit of Orthodox. Muscular doom: nothing unique but decent enough, and the drummer was a beast, hitting the cymbals with his hand after dropping a drumstick. Their cover of ‘Black Sabbath’ wasn’t dreadful but would probably have been better off as an instrumental.

I got all confused after that. The Theatre Space times had changed, and then turned out to be delayed on top of that. It was too complicated for this Russ of very little brain. I ended up watching some of Parts & Labor (instant lost points for the name. Being American is not an excuse for American spellings) on The Outside Stage while waiting. Husker Du homage, anyway, nothing jaw-dropping but some songs seemed kinda catchy.

Once ingress to the Theatre Space was eventually achieved, it was time for a couple of talks. Japanese artist Yukio Fujimoto‘s turn really seemed ill-conceived at first, as he narrated over videos of installations he’d created in the past… with a faulty mic. Eventually, though, he got every one to gather round near him in front of/on the stage (“the sound is very small”) and played tunes with pocket calculators. Magnificent tunes. With pocket calculators. It was wonderful.

Brian Duffy’s talk, meanwhile, was as fantastic as you’d have imagined. He spoke mostly about some of his projects he’s created (and/or continues to work with), but is a hilarious bloke and so clever that P’Ashton was moved to purchase this domain afterwards. It was all entertaining and interesting; I forget the name, but one of my favourite things to hear about was the telescope that responded to light with sound, and the ensuing performance that pointed them at the sky to capture the music of the spheres. The quantum explanation of what happens when he circuit-bends toys was magnificent, too (in brief: he solders bits of an electronic toy together and it now makes new and different noises. The manufacturers didn’t plan for these noises to be made, and he didn’t specifically set out to create them. Since he obviously hasn’t and couldn’t add any more information into the universe but has seemingly conjured some up from somewhere, it must be a collapsed probability waveform. Beautiful). Amazing stuff.

To Space 2 after this, for Earth. As legendary as they may be in the eyes of some, I found them duuuuuuulllllllllllll. Simple arrangements, repeated over and over in slow motion, and… no, that was it, really. Occasionally they seemed to threaten to hint at evoking dusty prairie plains and the like, but never went as far as doing so. The first act all weekend that I found nothing to like about.

I gave up on them after a while (I did try, y’know) and – with only The Disgraceful Red Sparrowes due to play on the immediate horizon – left The Custard Factory for a bit to go and get some kebab ‘n’ chips.

I returned in time for Fucked Up in Space 2, who really seemed like just your basic punk/hardcore band. This year’s “Not bad as such, but why they were booked for Supersonic?” group. They were moderately catchy at times, but nothing you couldn’t have seen at any random gig at The Market Tavern while it was still open. Folk elsewhere seem to have spoken/written about the singer and his leaping-around-larks; in the interests of fairness I should probably say that the last two sentences of my thoughts on Oxbow may well apply here too.

I think a spot of general aimless faffing about went on at this point, before going to hear a bit of The Oscillation on The Outside Stage. I heard the very end of their set supporting Chrome Hoof at the tail end of last year, which caught my attention. On seeing a bit more of them they seemed less psychedelic than I was expecting- more sort of psych-come-powerpop-come-baggy. Not bad. Not great either, but not bad.

A spot of Kikuri (no link, sorry) in Space 2 seemed apt at this point. They’re made up of Japanesenoiselegends Merzbow and Keiji Haino, although I’m not so sure how different they were from every other noise thing knocking around. Some likeable individual moments, though, and at least they were as LOUD as thing sort of thing could so often do with being. I might even go so far as saying that they had the volume that SunnO))) could really have done with last year.

The last act for me (so tired. So very tired) were ZX Spectrum Orchestra, on The Outside Stage. “Geek Pride~!”, they gleefully affirmed. Alas, I felt a bit left out. I’d like to be a geek, but don’t have the technical knowledge. I’m just a nerd. Each individual bleep from their 8-bit monster machines, anyway, took them several hours to code, but I’m glad they did. The tune created by making the computers say letters/numbers/command lines was genius in particular (“I 1 U 2 move. D I S C O”).

And then I left. It was amazing. It remains the best annual event going. Hurrah for Capsule and Supersonic.

There’s a collective memory over at CIB, with links a-plenty to all sorts of punditry and picturation.

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

Posted in Combat Sports, Food, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 27 June, 2008

It feels a bit feeble this time. This would mostly be because I’m a bit feeble myself and the end of the month crept up on me too fast. Also the Ian McEwan opera thing (what a combination) seems to have disappeared from The Rep’s site, so I’m assuming that’s cancelled. Sorry.

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

All of the Wednesdays from before now until ages away – “These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things” (Various contributors) @ Ikon Gallery, Birmingham – Various people talk about their Favourite Things, in a DesertIslandDisks stylee. Most interesting to me looks like Catherine O’ Flynn, of “What Was Lost” (amazing novel, read it if you haven’t) authorship fame on the 9th of July.

Before now until Sunday the 13th of July – Vivid’s ‘Flux-Fest’ @ Various places in Birmingham – Something calling itself a festival? In Birmingham? The heck you say. It’s to honour the memory of your good ol’ Fluxus movement, anyway.

Friday the 27th of June till Sunday the 6th – Moseley Festival @ Various places in Moseley, Birmingham – Not to be confused with the Moseley Folk Festival in August. There’s a list of events here; Rich Batsford’s Music By Candlelight on Tuesday the 1st at St Mary’s Church sounds good.

Various dates between Saturday the 28th of June and Saturday the 5th – ‘Fourplay’ (new directors showcase) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Four new directors doing four one-act plays over the course of a couple of different double bills. The Bald Prima Donna sounds like a laugh.

Tuesday the 1st till Saturday the 5th – ‘Topless Mum’ (Tobacco Factory Productions & Imagineer Productions) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – Careful now. I mean it. We’ll have no smut here. This is a play about the actions and responsibilities of tabloid newspapers, even if they are using the poncey southern spelling of ‘mom’.

Wednesday the 2nd – Pama International / The Slackers / The Pietasters / Mungo’s Hi-Fi @ The Robin 2, Bilston – The ‘Reggae For The People’ tour. The Pietasters weren’t especially reggae-ish last time I heard them (admittedly this was years ago) but they were very good.

Thursday the 3rd – Paul Heaton @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Your man there from The Beautiful South.

Saturday the 5th – Eddy Grant @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Oi! He’s gonna rock down to Electric Avenue, although apparently (and disappointingly) that song is about an Electric Avenue in London rather than the one in Birmingham.

Saturday the 5th – Pentangle @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Apparently this is the actual proper version of Pentangle, rather than the “Jacqui McShee plus some other suckahs” version I saw a couple of years ago.

Saturday the 5th – ‘Cocomad’ (Cotteridge Festival) @ Cotteridge Park, Bourneville, Birmingham – With food and stalls and wood carving and some ace bands.

Monday the 7th – Duran Duran @ The NIA, Birmingham – Just don’t go on a pilgrimage to Saramoons where they used to drink, ‘cos although it’s still open it ain’t like that these days. Pointing this out seems to be a popular local meme of late.

Thursday the 10th till Sunday the 13th – ‘Taste Of Birmingham’ @ Cannon Hill Park, Edgbaston, Birmingham – NOM NOM NOM NOM.

Friday the 11th – Lupe Fiasco @ The Academy, Birmingham – And so we kick, push, kick, push, kick, push…

Friday the 11th till Sunday the 13th – Supersonic Festival @ The Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham – Look, it’s Supersonic (hey hey hey hey). If I haven’t convinced you before now then I’m not likely to. Just go, yer nutter, it’s the best annual event out there.

Saturday the 12th – Weatheroak Charity Challenge & Pig Roast @ Wythall Park Community Centre, Wythall – Including five-aside football and “It’s A Knockout” (~!).

Saturday the 12th – The Jewellery Quarter Arts & Designer Craft Festival @ all over The Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Bizarrely under-publicised (or at least as far as my sphere-of-noticing-things goes), but it looks interesting. There are workshops and demonstrations and things of sculpting, jewellery-making, and of course Arfs An Crarts.

Saturday the 12th – Andersens @ The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham – Cool-sounding (on the basis of their MySpace page, at least) Japanese psych-folk doings. Courtesy of The Autumn Store, who also bring you more fun ‘n’ frolics on the 22nd – have a look at their events page, whydon’tcha.

Monday the 14th – Jah Wobble @ The Glee Club, Birmingham -Dubby experimentally silly namey erstwhile PIL fella, doing what’s said to be a fusion of dub and Chinese melodies. Leslie Kong would be proud.

Wednesday the 16th – Wiley @ The Barfly, Digbeth, Birmingham – What do you do? Usually drink, usually daaaarrrrnce.

Saturday the 19th – Boxing (Sports Network) @ Aston Events Centre, Aston, Birmingham – Frizzank Wizzank defies his own self-imposed ban on promoting in Birmingham for the second time in two months. You’d almost think the Olympic boxing squad had two Brummies he wanted to sign or something. Featuring, anyway, Enzo Maccarinelli and Audley ‘Not In The Face!’ Harrison for ‘big name’ purposes and Matthew Macklin, Don Broadhurst and Thomas Costello for ‘actually getting the tickets sold’ purposes.

Tuesday the 22nd – Butthole Surfers @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Another “if I have to explain it, you’ll never understand” one. Not on the 6th, please note; the date has changed.

Thursday the 24th and Saturday the 26th – ‘Assassins’ (Through The Window Theatre) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – A comical musical about the ‘fraternity of presidential assassins’ – the nine men who’ve tried to kill a US prez.

Thursday the 24th – Boxing (First Team Promotions) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – The latest local card with a bunch of our usual faves, including (at the time of writing) Rob Hunt, Rob Kenney, Scott Evans etc. No Dean Harrison or Lyndsey Scragg though, seemingly.

Friday the 25th – Soweto Kinch @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Fresh from Flyover Show-esque success, that man Soweto presents this ‘Basement Fables’ show – the second part of his ‘A Day In The Life Of B19’ series.

Monday the 28th and Tuesday the 29th – ‘Like A Fountain Troubled’ (Untamed Shrew Productions) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Of the counsellor more troubled than those she counsels, and the relationship between the two. The description on the OJS site makes it sound sort of ace and sort of crap at the same time, which is as nifty a promotional trick as many you’ll encounter.