Call me Russ L

Cows (celestial), Birds (sea), Rabbits (anthropomorphised)

Posted in Blogstuff, Films, Linklog, Modern Living, Music by Russ L on 5 September, 2012

I must face up to the fact that I pretty much never get around to writing about anything nowadays. A change of approach is needed. I think that I’m going to shift sideways slightly and try writing rambly diary style posts, rather than posts that are ‘about’ something specific. There may in practice appear to be no difference, with the only distinction drawn being in my own mind. We’ll see.

The last few weeks have been good for ‘big’ stuff, anyway. There was the Flyover Show and the Helicoptera, both of which were ace. In spite of the above paragraph I do still intend, one of these never-never days, to write a big opera digest post (or series of posts). I’ll talk about “Mittwoch” when I do that. If. When.

I spent the weekend just gone at the Moseley Folk Festival, which is always lovely fun. It wasn’t quite as good as Mostly Jazz, Funk And Soul two months ago (that was probably the best multi-day-music-festival-type-thing that I’ve ever been to, even better than that one previous Supersonic and that one previous Moseley Folk, but I’m going to be sensible and acknowledge the fact that I’m never going to manage to write a post about it), but it was still fab.

Two minor teensy complaints:

1) There were sound problems. Never mind the fact that Guillemots suffered from the feedback mooing of The Celestial Cow and the fact that both Roy Harper and Ian McCulloch ended up repeatedly complaining to the monitor man, the bigger trouble is that (both at this and at Mostly Jazz two months ago) the second stage just wasn’t projecting. If you weren’t up the front, the Lunar stage simply didn’t have the appropriate volume. Quite a few bands palpably suffered from this, at both festivals.

2) Janice Long as compere, again. Although in the name of fairness I should point out that she didn’t seem anywhere near as drunk as last year, and even managed to get the names of the acts correct.

Carping aside, there were a whole metric bucketful of enjoyable turns. Listing band names tells you as close to nothing as makes no odds, but since it’s the most that I’m realistically likely to manage I’ll proceed:

1) The Destroyers were the best. Obviously. As I’ve said before now, having them on is unfair to the other bands.

2) Other particular highlight sets came from Guillemots (plus their aforementioned Celestial Cow of feedback), Echo & The Bunnymen (altogether fiercer sounding than when I saw them a few years ago), Devon Sproule (at least partly because of how personally personable she seemed), Goodnight Lenin (albumalbumhurryupandreleasethebloodyalbum), and Julian Cope (it was a small victory for him to actually bother to turn up [cf: Supersonic a few years ago]. That he also turned out to be a huge amount of fun was a happy bonus).

3) Direct hits were also scored by Abigail Washburn & Kai Welch, KateGoes, Beth Jeans Houghton, Laura J. Martin, Dark Dark Dark, Revere, Little Sister, Treetop Flyers, The Magnetic North,Lanterns On The Lake, Roy Harper, The Long Notes (both their first set and their ceilidh/hayfight), Spiro, Rapunzel & Sedayne, Paul Murphy, The Jasmine Moon Ensemble, Hassan Salir Nour & Joelle Barker, Cara Dillon, Village Well, and Steeleye Span.

The use of a camping chair proved good for avoiding The Aches. I think I might see about getting one of those leg-less ones you place straight on the ground for the future though.

The park is still lovely, of course. I find myself worried about it, though, even more than I was last year – not only are the two annual festivals taking their toll, the silly rain over this summer has turned some of the turf more-or-less inside out. There are now stretches of mud/dirt where there should be grass. What is to be done?

Ah well. I will finish on a song some links:

~ Since we were talking about their pop namesake, guillemots lay eggs that won’t roll off cliffs. They’re a bit Weeble-ish.

~ The stories behind 20 Muppet favourites (via Skepchick).

~ Interesting thoughts about numeric ratings by Tom Ewing (I’m no fan of marks-out-of-x, meself. I far prefer words to tell me what you think of something).

~ “Airbushed For Change” – Tory/Cameron poster parodies circa the last election

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March Hares and Hounds and so forth

Posted in Films, Food, Music by Russ L on 7 April, 2012

Ah, all the blogging that was intended to be done but not actually done.

Still, my March stuff:

~ “All of the band names ending with the same phoneme” is a brilliant theme for gigs and should be used more often: I was very sad to see that it no longer has the 70s flowery wallpaper, but the little room in The Hare & Hounds saw a fun little gig on the 5th – Teeth Of The Sea, Victories At Sea and Health And Efficien…sea. I liked all three, particularly last year’s Supersonic best-in-show-eers Teeth Of The Sea and their Morricone-ised psychedelic industrial (oh yes), and the new-to-me Victories At Sea who played something like that Echo And The Bunnymen-styled 80s-influenced indie-rock that was popular a few years ago, only turned up to 381 and with the knob snapped off. An aside, since we mentioned them: E&TB will be headlining the first day at Moseley Folk this year.

~ Blocks of flats: As part of The Flatpack Film Festival, I went to Another Fine Mess (not-having-gone-to-Crufts consolation #1: this) and The Icebook (absolutely gorgeous. A bit sad though Ted).

~ Feed me Seymour: Dilshad in Blackheath was alright, nothing amazing but completely acceptable. The Bartons Arms may still be my favourite pub but the food there didn’t seem as good this time around. In no way bad, of course, but not as wonderful as I’ve known it to be in the past. The Black Country Arms in Walsall is also a very good pub indeed, and does more usual pub food to a good standard for very reasonable prices. And, y’know, I like reasonable prices far more than I like unreasonable ones.

~ And The Band Played On: I went to see The Temptations, The Four Tops, Tavares and The Crystals at the NIA on the 22nd. Unsurprisingly, there were no surprises and the gig went exactly as you’d expect. In this case that is a very good thing and an emormous amount of fun. The three “The-” bands were all one-original-member versions, so Tavares won a moral victory through that. The Tempations won the “best old man dance moves” and the “band I liked the most in the first place” awards.

~ Sure, the craic was fierce: As part of The Fierce Festival I saw the Capsule gig at Vivid on the 30th (I arrived right at the end of Swllws, but it all sounded nice enough; Diamond Catalog progressed from “thumping undertow with random sounds over the top for decoration” to “using said sounds over the top to create a polyrhythmic contrast with said thumping overtow”, and it was fun; Grouper‘s “Violet Replacement” piece was a touch longer than what was actually in it seemed to justify, but nevertheless spectral and ghostly and lovely just to sit back into your chair and melt into. I may or may not have actually sat back in my chair, I don’t remember. I normally perch on the edge of chairs, ready for action) and The Dachsund UN (not-having-gone-to-Crufts consolation #2: adorable, although very difficult to actually see given the number of spectators there. Who can blame them, though? Also HOUNDS).

There were also five (count ’em) operas in March and another one since then, but I’m going to do a separate/proper post about them. You just see if I don’t.

For the time being, I’ll leave you with the new Destroyers (they’re at Moseley Folk, too) videeyo, just because:

As I said in the comments underneath (I know, YouTube commenting) – I don’t know why the kid leaves the room at the end. Going back into the main bar in The Lamp Tavern will lead to him having an even weirder conversation with Eddie…

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

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

Oh mercy, there’s one thing I don’t like about March but so very many good things during this March in particular. So very many. Lots of walking tours, lots of opera, lots of HOUNDS, lots of everything.

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

Until Saturday the 3rd – “Ministry Of Meh” (Belgrade Senior Youth Theatre) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – About the fact that the West Midlands is apparently the “obesity capital” of Europe. I did not know that (although these things are usually based on a survey of about four people).

Thursday the 1st till Saturday the 10th – “Lady Windermere’s Fan” (Blue Orange Arts) @ The Blue Orange Theatre, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Go Wilde in the country Jewellery Quarter.

Saturday the 2nd – Mel C @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Your erstwhile Sporty Spice.

Friday the 2nd – “Time Gentlemen Please!” dance event @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Hip-hop and folk dancing all together: “Clog, Sword and Morris meet B-boying, Popping and Krump”. It may or may not be wrong of me to immediately want to say “En garde, I’ll let you try my Wu-Tang style” (and then make a load of slashing noises) when I think of sword dancing next to hip-hop.

Saturday the 3rd – Wagner’s “Tristan Und Isolde” (CBSO/CBSO Chorus) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – This will be the first opera that I’ll ever have seen live twice, fact fans.

Saturday the 3rd – Great Gran’s Great Games” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – Nan’s swimming, for ages four and up.

Saturday the 3rd – Joe Cutler’s “Ping” (The Coull Quartet) @ The Warwick Arts Centre, near Coventry – Music for quartet and four table tennis players. No, really.

Monday the 5th – Teeth Of The Sea @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham
The psychedelic industrialistas who were, according to me and various others, the best band of Supersonic last year.

Tuesday the 6th till Saturday the 10th – Welsh National Opera mini season @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – Continuing what has turned out to be a very operatic month indeed (see also the 3rd and 21st), here you have La Traviata on the 6th and 9th, Beatrice And Benedict on the 7th, and The Marriage Of Figaro on the 8th and 10th.

Tuesday the 6th till Saturday the 10th – “The Diary Of Anne Frank” (Touring Consortium Theatre Company) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – I can’t pretend that the idea of a big-stage version of Anne Frank in a big-stage theatre that normally has musicals and glossy “shows” strikes me as an enormously good idea, but you never know. There is potential for it to be interesting.

Wednesday the 7th till Saturday the 10th – “The Glass Menagerie” (Dudley Little Theatre) @ Netherton Arts Centre, Netherton – Which of the Williams’ is the best at Tennis? Why, Tennessee Williams, of course (arf).

Wednesday the 7th – Chris Wood @ The Red Lion, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Awake, arise, you drousy sleepers.

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

Thursday the 9th and Friday the 10th – “Mummy Mafia” (First Floor Theatre) @ The Drum, Newtown, Birmingham – In which the posh mothers don’t like the ordinary ones. It’s mommy mafia round here, we’ll have you know.

Thursday the 8th – Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Blimey, that is a soul-funkin’ lot of days and nights.

Friday the 9th till Saturday the 17th – St Padraig’s Day Festival @ various places in Digbeth, Birmingham – With the parade itself on (helpfully) the 17th. (EDIT: And by ’17th’ I mean ’11th’, obviously).

Friday the 9th – Fairport Convention @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – A Fairport gig, a Fairport gig, the first one of the year (Disclaimer: it’s probably not really their first gig of the year).

Friday the 9th – The Presidents Of The United States Of America @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Your first peach-related band of the month.

Saturday the 10th – The Stranglers @ The Academy, Birmingham – Your second peach-related band of the month.

Saturday the 10th – “Bite Size” (various theatre companies) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (studio), near Coventry – Lots of short plays, throughout the days. Well, it’s only one day, but that didn’t rhyme.

Sunday the 11th – Cannibal Corpse @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Those sensitive purveyors of songs about hammer-smashed faces and suchlike.

Monday the 12th – Mark Lanegan @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – You do have to wonder what he actually did to those poor trees.

Tuesday the 13th till Saturday the 17th – “Waiting For Godot” (A Talawa Theatre Company/West Yokshire Playhouse) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – Nothing, as ever, to be done.

Tuesday the 13th – Joan Baez @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The night they drove ol’ Brummie down.

Tuesday the 13th – “The Ethics Of Progress” (Unlimited Theatre) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (studio), near Coventry – Quantum for the perplexed. Although that was by somebody else.

Wednesday the 14th till Sunday the 18th – the Flatpack Film Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – The vaunted, feted, celebrated annual festival of films and film-related doings, courtesy of those good folks at 7 Inch Cinema. The line-up abounds with huge amounts of stuff, not least Laurel & Hardy in a church, films on a boat, biking, cinematic remixes, the best film ever made, digital projectors, psychedelic music, Yam-yam-ery, magnets and magic lanterns, and oh so much more.

Wednesday the 14th – The Three Degrees @ The Jam House, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – (Insert stock grumble about The Jam House here).

Thursday the 15th till Saturday the 1st of April – Still Walking Festival @ various routes around Birmingham – A festival of walks (in the sense of “guided tours around places”, not in the sense of “keep fit”. Although it no doubt will help with that if you go on enough of them).

Thursday the 15th till Saturday the 17th – “The Big Bang” science & engineering fair @ The NEC, Marston Green, BirminghamScience~! For free. Free science.

Thursday the 15th – Chris Addison @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Although I don’t know what he’s doing here, given that they were meant to be filming a new series of “The Thick Of It” aroundabout now (and, much as I hate to say it, that’s altogether more important).

Friday the 16th – “Undefeated” boxing bill (Coldwell Boxing) @ The New Bingley Hall, Hockley, Birmingham – Headlined by a local derby between Jamie Ball and Nasser Al Harbi for the English light-middleweight title, which sounds suspiciously like a proper fight.

Friday the 16th – The Spaghetti Western Orchestra @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Doing Morricone and such. (Edit: just realised that this is part of the Flatpack Festival, as above).

Saturday the 17th – The Dubliners @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Every year they play at Brum town hall for St Padraig’s day, every year I think “surely that’ll be the best gig ever”, and every year I fail to get around to getting a ticket before it sells out.

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

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

Wednesday the 21st till Saturday the 31st – Jonathon Dove’s “Life Is A Dream” (Birmingham Opera Company) @ The Argyle Works, Bordesley Green (or is this still Digbeth?), Birmingham – Right, seriously now: even though there’s Flatpack and Crufts and everything else this month, this is the big one for March (and quite possibly all of 2012). And that’s no insult to any of the other lovely things going on. This is a new opera based in Calderon that has been specifically written (by Jonathon Dove, libretto by Alasdair Middleton) for the Birmingham Opera Company, whose performances place you in the midst of an immersive world rather than have you sit there looking at a stage. Go go go go go to this, you will not regret it.

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

Friday the 23rd till Friday the 30th – “Irminsul: You Are Lost” @ Perrott’s Folly, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A collaborative art project (full list of artistes at that link), and also a good excuse to go up Perrott’s Folly, which you don’t get absolutely every day (although there have been a few things there before).

Friday the 23rd – Syleena Johnson @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Tonight, she’s gonna let go. (EDIT: Note well, if it’s important to you for transport and such – it’s a club-night type of gig and Syleena will be on later in the night).

Friday the 23rd – Boxing (Frank Warren Promotions/First Team Promotions) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Headlined by Enzo Maccarinelli vs Shane McPhilbin for the British cruiserweight belt.

Friday the 23rd – Dave Swarbrick @ The Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton – The usual “any given month must feature at least one of the Watersons/Carthys” rule seems to be having a rare break, so have someone affiliated with them instead (see also the 7th).

Saturday the 24th – Discharge @ The Ballroom, Birmingham – Why?

Saturday the 24th – Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA) @ The NIA, Birmingham – No longer featuring Nate Marquardt. Let’s hope someone else does the Gouveia finishing sequence instead.

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

Wednesday the 28th – “I, Bertolt Brecht” (Fuschia Films & Media) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – A documentary play about the fella, based on experiences with his own theatre company.

Thursday the 29th till the 8th of April – Fierce Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – The annual art/performance art festival, and another one with countless things of interest: here we have one-to-one book readings (intense), guided tours of Berlin in Birmingham, HOUNDS, Viking funerals of your personal messages, and going off into the unknown under a blindfold.

Thursday the 29th – The Osmonds @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Apparently their last ever UK tour. Cra-zy Hor-ses WAAAAAAA~! WAAAAAAA~!

Thursday the 29th – “Coffin Up” (Village Idiots Mask Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – What happens when a funeral director can’t get enough business by ordinary means.

Friday the 30th – Grouper @ Vivid, Digbeth, Birmingham – That would be the American ambient lady Grouper, not the local covers band who have (for some reason) decided to use the same name.

Friday the 30th – The Selecter @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Just a simple show, on their radio. Although this is a gig, at The Robin.

Friday the 30th – The Destroyers @ The Prince Of Wales, Moseley, Birmingham – The new album is out!

Saturday the 31st till Saturday the 7th of April – “The Pillowman” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Martin McDonagh’s tale of authoritarian interrogation. “You wrote that so it was you what done it.”

Saturday the 31st – Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” (Heart Of England Singers) @ Shirley Methodist Church, Shirley, Birmingham – O Fortuna, Velut Luna, and on you go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday the 1st – “Precious Things” (My Little Theatre Company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Strange characters attend an exhibition of a nazi-sympathising artist in a play looking at ethics in art.

Friday the 3rd till Saturday the 5th – Moseley Folk Festival @ Moseley Park, Moseley, Birmingham – The fifth annual Moseley Folk Festival. The big headliner this time is Donovan, and there’ll also be chances to see Turin Brakes, Fyfe Dangerfield (see also the 25th), The Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain, The Unthanks, John Renbourne, The Destroyers and a whole tonne of others in an absolutely lovely setting. In spite of all that, I’ll still be asking for my money back if The Divine Comedy don’t play “My Lovely Horse”.

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

Saturday the 4th & Sunday the 5th – “Peppa Pig’s Party” @ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – I’ve never seen any of Peppa Pig’s programmes but I do think she’s so very very cute.

Saturday the 4th – “Opium: The Confessions Of Thomas De Quincy” (Skewed View) @ The Vaults, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham and then apparently later on at The Old Crown, Digbeth, Birmingham – Based, as the name would suggest, in Thomas De Quincey’s “Confessions Of An English Opium Eater”. The Vaults is a restaurant but I doubt that’ll be on the menu.

Sunday the 5th – The Rotary Club Country Music Festival @ Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A counterpoint to Moseley Folk, I suppose.

Sunday the 5th – Heart Of England Judo tournament @ The NIA, Birmingham – “Consider fully, act decisively” – Jigoro Kano.

Tuesday the 7th till Saturday the 11th – “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (Wolverhampton Youth Musical Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Thoroughness, that’s what you want in your modernity.

Wednesday the 8th – Modified Toy Orchestra @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – The circuit-bending gaffers will be premiering their new album, “Plastic Planet”. That was me just trying out this useage of “premier” as a verb. I don’t think I like it. I probably won’t do it again.

Friday the 10th until Sunday the 12th – Artsfest @ all over Birmingham – It’s that time of the year again. Details are customarily scarce, but the main stage in Centenary Square (apparently they’re fencing off a chunk of Broad Street too, to mitigate for the space lost to library-building works) will have the usual CBSO “Classical Fantasia” on Saturday night, and a pock’n’rop thing on Sunday headlined by The Twang.

Friday the 10th until Sunday the 12th – Birmingham Zine Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Fanzines have always been and will always be around, obviously, but they do quite recently seem to have become more a lot more fashionable in various circles. Still: hooray for DIY and boo to the insistence that all information must flow downwards from the massahs and hooray for zines.

Friday the 10th – Gorillaz @ The NIA, Birmingham – I still think that Murdoc from Gorillaz and Cain Dingle from “Emmerdale” are the same person. (EDIT: Postponed till the 17th of November, see comments).

Saturday the 11th till Saturday the 18th – “A Dolls House” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Ibsen and his dislike of 19th century sexism.

Saturday the 11th – “Muay Thai Champions Trophy” Muay Thai card (Fightsport Events @ The NIA, Birmingham – Including one of those eight man/one night tournaments that we all love so much.

Saturday the 11th – The Drifters @ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Saaaaturday night at the… erm, theatre…

Saturday the 11th – The Furious Five @ The Hare And Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Don’t… push… them,… ‘cos they’re… close… to… the… eeeeedge…

Tuesday the 14th until Sunday the 19th – The British Science Festival @ various places in Birmingham but mostly the universities – It’s poetry in motion/She turned her tender eyes to me/As deep as any ocean/As sweet as any harmony…

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

Thursday the 16th – Mahler’s 8th symphony (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The Birmingham Mahler Cycle (running till June) begins with “The Symphony Of A Thousand”.

Saturday the 18th – Fun Lovin’ Criminals @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Stick ‘em up, punk.

September the 18th – “The Magnificent Seven” boxing card (Frank Warren Promotions) @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – “The Seven Samurai” was a far better film, but never mind. It’s so-called due to there being no less than seven twelve-round fights on this card as well as more stuff too. In one of the more anticipated domestic fights of recent times, Matthew Macklin is scheduled to take on Darren Barker for the British and European (both at once, it’s like the olden days) middleweight titles. Assuming they all occur as planned, Nathan Cleverly then fights Karo Murat in a WBO world light-heavyweight title eliminator, Enzo Maccarinelli fights Alexander Frenkel for the European cruiserweight title, Ryan Rhodes faces Lukas Konecny for the European light-middleweight title, Derek Chisora takes on Sam Sexton for the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles, Kell Brook fights Michael Jennings for the British welterweight title, James DeGale faces Carl Dilks for the WBA International super-middleweight title, Frankie Gavin takes on Michael Kelly for the Irish light-welterweight title, and Don Broadhurst fights The Dreaded TBA for the English super-flyweight title. Not including at least one additional four-rounder on the bill, that’s potentially 104 consecutive rounds of boxing. Blimey. (EDIT: Barker is out. Bad hips apparently. Shame really, that would’ve been quite the fight…).

Sunday the 19th –The Pope @ Cofton Park, Rednal, Birmingham – As the old Belfast joke goes: “Yeah, but I’m a Catholic atheist…”

Sunday the 19th – The Digbeth O’Lympics @ various places in Digbeth, Birmingham -Including snail racing and cardboard-box sailing.

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

Wednesday the 22nd till Saturday the 25th – “Enron” (Headlong Theatre) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – I actually thought this was called “Enron – The Musical”. Unless that’s something different.

Wednesday the 22nd – Schostakovich’s 8th Symphony (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Banned for a bit, in the USSR. I find that difficult to believe, it’s so unlike Schostakovich…

Thursday the 23rd till Saturday the 25th – “Duck Variations” and “The Brothers” (Duck Brothers Productions) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – A double-bill of comedic plays, the first by David Mamet do you see do you see.

Thursday the 23rd – Wagner’s “Tristan Und Isolde” (The Philharmonia Orchestra) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The UK premier of this enormously well-regarded production, featuring backing visuals by Bill Viola.

Saturday the 25th – “BAMMA 4” mixed martial arts card (British Association of Mixed Martial Arts) @ The NIA, Birmingham – In which Tom Watson (Not The MP) will take on the bloke who did that Stamford Prison Experiment knock-off thing. There’ll be lots more fights too, including an interesting battle between two very good prospects when Eugene Fadiora faces Gunnar Nelson.

Saturday the 25th – Fyfe Dangerfield @ The (AHEM) Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – The building that has previously (in whole or in part) constituted The Barfly, The Sanctuary, The Institute, Digbeth Civic Hall and (apparently) a Methodist chapel is now re-opening as The HMV Institute, presumably because if you ask ten people off the street what they think about “branding” they’ll sincerely beseech you to add more company identities into the names of things for no obvious reason. Obviously I’ll be ignoring the “HMV” in this in the same way that most of us ignore the “O2” in The Academy (unpleasantly, though, I have recently heard a few people refer to The Academy as The O2. This is despicable and must cease immediately – you’re only encouraging them, ferchrisakes). Anyway, your man there from Guillemots will be playing on the 25th.

Saturday the 25th – Steve Ignorant’s “The Last Supper: Crass Songs 1977-1982” @ The (AHEM) Academy 2, Birmingham – Crass are quite possibly the last band from whom I would expect to see ex-members doing nostalgia gigs in big corporate venues, but this could be interesting nevertheless.

Saturday the 25th – “Whose Shoes” (Theatr Lolo) @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – One poor young’un acquires a younger sister, who wants to half-inch her awesome slippers. Being a sibling-less type I can see how this would be bloody infuriating. For 5-7 year olds. (EDIT: I mean the play is for 5-7 year olds, not that it would only be irritating for 5-7 year olds. The shoe-teefin’ would be annoying for anyone).

Sunday the 26th – Paul Heaton @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – Of The Beautifully Southern Housemartins fame.

Sunday the 26th – Deer Tick @ Taylor John’s House, Coventry – Intense country-rock. I am told by trustworthy fellows that they’re quite the thing, live.

Tuesday the 28th till Saturday the 2nd of October – “The Habit Of Art” (National Theatre) @ The Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Alan Bennett, ladies and gentlemen.

Tuesday the 28th – Mark Ronson @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – I risk the wrath of Bounder by invoking this name.

Thursday the 30th and then every Thur/Fri/Sat for five weeks hence – “A Play, A Pint And A Pie” (Paines, Plough and Òran Mór) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – For only ten of your English pounds you can have a pie, a drink and see one of five new 45 minute plays. Dinnertime performances, too.

The Bestest Evaaar

Posted in Music by Russ L on 15 January, 2010

Following on from my little list here, it seems that the Blue Whale Blog’s Grand List Of The Best Local Bands 2000-2009 has been enumerated, calculated, added-up and generally put into order. Places 100-11 are here; the top ten is here, with a Brumcast podcast about them here.

For the most part it’s no shock to see that my faves don’t accord with the very top of the list (although quite a few of them are in the top 100 as a whole. My top eleven is actually closer to a previous Brumcast broadcast, in which Small Christopher gave his own top fifteen), but I am genuinely surprised that The Destroyers didn’t come a little (and maybe even a lot) higher up the chart. I really thought they would, what with them seeming to have widespread popularity and such nowadays.

I’m actually relatively unfamiliar with the final top ten – I have heard them all now (thanks, again, to said Brumcast castcast), but in six/seven cases this was actually the first time. Previously I’d seen The Big Bang twice (should’ve been more, but there we go) and liked them, I’d seen Sunset Cinema Club twice and not particularly liked them, and I’d heard odds’n’sods by Misty’s Big Adventure and remained undecided. I’d never seen/heard Calories but I had twice seen and liked their prior incarnation Distophia.

The others (although all names I’d heard of as knocking about the place) were new to me, and I enjoyed most of what I heard and wish to hear more. This is, realistically, the best possible outcome.

Y’all should be listening to/going to see The Destroyers more, though. I can’t emphasise that enough.

The best local bands, 2000-2009

Posted in Music by Russ L on 30 December, 2009

There’s a doings a-happening over at the Blue Whale Studios blog. They’re inviting their extensive network of Street Peeplez to compile lists of the top ten Birmingham bands of the decade, and will presumably later compile them together into big one master list that’ll provide accurate and definitive answers to the questions that keep us all awake at night: “Which bands were The Bestest? Can you prove that? Can you prove that with science?”

Several lists have already come in and they make for an interesting read. They’re all whiter than Casper The Friendly Ghost, obviously, but many good bands are lauded.

I’m not going to provide my list of the top ten Brum bands of the decade, because I despise the Birmingocentricism that has poisoned social discourse in recent centuries. I will instead do a list of top ten local bands instead. As the learned DJ Kool taught us: it ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.

Disclaimer~! Since this concerns the period 2000-2009, I will count down from nine to zero rather than ten to one. This is the only sensible course of action.

Disclaimer~! There are actually eleven. I really didn’t want to exclude either of the last two.

Disclaimer~! They’re not all bands, as such.

Disclaimer~! I’m not including Carina Round, as a result of her moving to the colonies. Only a chap with a really really long tape measure would be able to describe her as local nowadays. She wins the international prize.

9) Copter / Einstellung

Joint ninth place because I really didn’t want to leave either out. Einstellung (often referred to as The ‘Ung. By, erm, me and no-one else) play what might well end up being called Krautpunk – repeat-repeat-repeat German 70s style business, but with a driving motive power that breezes you along. Copter, meanwhile, soul’n’roll at you until you involuntarily start shouting “Testify mah bruthah” in an unconvincing American accent. This is a good thing. Well… it’s a good thing in context, anyway.

8) The Courtesy Group

Hawaiian shirts, poetry, Fall-esque post-punk and onstage fruitloopery. I’ve just ordered their long-time-coming album and I can’t wait.

7) Jamelia

Yes, I know. Including some kind of superstar (haw, see what I did there?) on a list of local bands is a bit feeble, and I acknowledge that. She is a Brummie (EDIT: Yowzer! After spending years thinking she’s a Brummie, I now find out that she’s actually from Smethwick. I know some folk consider that Birmingham but I think it’s definitely within Yamland. In your face, B-Town), though, has had some amazing songs, and “Money” really has to be one of the most pleasingly odd things I’ve ever heard. *Cough*She’salsoreallyquiteunbelievablygorgeous*Cough*

6) Deadsunrising

West Bromwich metal. If I need to add anything to that then there’s something wrong with you, not me or them. One of the most manically exciting live bands I’ve ever seen; their first last ever gig (they turned out to have a few last ever gigs) would be amongst the top ten best live sets I’ve ever seen from any band ever.

5) Pram

I’d like a bit of Pram, please (I like ‘em in good condition etc. etc.) The word ‘soundscape’ is hurtling towards us and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. Pram’s music is always very effectively dreamlike, occasionally veering over to being very effectively nightmarish. Music that sounds like it should be a score for the sort of film that stars a creepy child and is set in some eerie old art deco hotel.

4) Mothertrucker

Instrumental doom metallers with a sense of humour and some bleedin’ enormous riffs. Rubbish name, though. Their ex-drummer has by now pretty much conclusively proven that he’s better than me at chess.

3) Modified Toy Orchestra

Circuit-bending, i.e. pulling a toy apart and having a go at the circuit board with a soldering iron until it makes pretty noises. Since these noises must have existed in potentia, this is possibly an example of the collapse of quantum probability fields. I missed their last gig at Vivid (well… I was there, but left early due to being sick of You People. Yeah, all of you) but it’s been interesting to see them grow from a demonstration of a formal art project (as they were at their first gig, in the Custard Factory theatre space at Supersonic 2005. Fans of pointless trivia will be delighted to hear that their set was shortened due to a bomb scare) (EDIT: I find now that this may not actually have been their very first gig. I’m not 100% sure either way) to a rockin’ groovin’ band.

2) Beverley Knight

Another famous one and I apologise for that, but Our Bev is just ace. How she dashes about on stage with such abandon whilst wearing heels so high is a mystery. You’ve probably heard some of her songs on the wireless but if that’s all then you won’t be prepared for how fantastically high-energy her gigs are.

1) Mistress

Sludge/grind metallers of rare and incredibly potent strength. I’m serious about ‘rare’ – you simply don’t often encounter bands with as much oomph as Mistress. Appropriate tribute was paid by Johnny Bounds of Birmingham: It’s Not Shit – “I sat sipping a can of Tennents and was scared shitless by their sheer power”.

0) The Destroyers

Number zero and best. It really seems so clear and obvious to me that they’re the best band of recent times, never mind best local band of recent times. Balkan/gypsy/fiddler-on-the-roof oom-pa-pa makes up the base of it all, but they’re willing to combine that with seemingly anything (Italian folk, funk, bhangra, hip-hop, something from a Hammer Horror soundtrack – if you can name it, they’ve probably had a stab at it at some point). They’re one of the most fantastic live bands you’ll ever see. Paul Murphy’s voice is like chocolate whisky. They wear ludicrous hats. They are The Bestest and this can be Proven With Science.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alcohol restrictions at a St Patrick’s Day event: that’s taking the mickey (arf)

Posted in Modern Living, Music by Russ L on 18 March, 2009

My sources tell me that the orders originated from the bridge of the nuclear submarine that Birmingham City Council keep under the River Rea (y’know, the one poised and ready to launch a tactical missile against The Spotted Dog). The engines hummed as Mike Whitby sleepily shifted his weight deeper into his orthopaedic deckchair. His top hat slumped to the side slightly, obscuring some of the sequins that he’d lovingly sewed on in the shape of the letters “I ARE TEH LEADER”

“Could I possibly have a cup of Bovril?” he burbled. As his Bovril Lackey scurried off, the council’s two oracle interpreters on duty that day leaned closer together to confer.
“Bovril? Cup? If I’m translating correctly, that must mean that we’re to institute an alcohol-free zone on Bradford Street.”
“I agree. I’ll send out a wire immediately.”

Something seemed to disturb Whitby from his reveries. Growing agitated, he began to mutter under his breath – “Forward! Forward!” The crew of the submarine braced themselves for what they knew was coming next. Leaping to his feet, he insisted everyone else also stood and joined in with the singing of Birmingham’s civic anthem (“If It Happens Again I’m Leaving” by UB40, as any fule kno).

The interpreters were again quick to act.
“Singing? Standing? We’re clearly being told to allow alcohol back in on Bradford Street.”
“And that twitch?”
“Initially I thought it was just shellshock from the Battle Of Harborne, but now I realise he was telling us to allow plastic glasses only.”
“I concur. I’ll send out word.”

Calming down, Whitby sank back into his chair. He scanned his eyes around the room and was comforted by the presence of some of his favourite possessions – a snowglobe with a city in it, for example, and a local heart (preserved in a jar of formaldehyde). “I remember when this was all just luxury apartments” he murmured to himself, as his eyelids slowly lowered and he drifted away to the happy little world inside his own mind.

“Hear that?”
“Yup. We’re back to no alcohol. I’ll let ‘em know.”

…and so it continued…

***

Apparently Birmingham’s St Patrick’s Parade is the third largest in the world after New York and Dublin (I also gather Brum has more yards of cut than Valencia, or something like that). As part of the general weekend-before festivities for this year there was an outside stage on Bradford Street, with some bands ‘n’ such. It looked like fun. Since the stage was meant to be out on the street I got myself some cans at our end, before hopping over to Birmingham. A spot of shopping (stylin’ new shoes included) preceded me wandering over to Digbeth.

Picture the scene, then: the stage was by The Anchor, and blocked off with barriers so that you could only get near it via an entrance near The White Swan. When I arrived, they weren’t allowing alcohol any nearer to the stage than the barriers there. This basically led to a small number of people up in front of the stage, a huuuge gap (about 150 yards, say?) with no people, then a big crowd knocking around at the crossroads by The White Swan. Exactly as you’d expect.

Not long after I’d got there they decided to start letting people in with booze in plastic cups, so a fair few folks headed forwards. That didn’t help me, obviously, but I finished my can and moved into the enclosure in time for the start of The Father Teds. They weren’t searching bags at this point.

The Father Teds were great fun – too-ra-loo-ra-li fun Irish business with “Dirty Old Town” and “Irish Rover” and so on and so forth, not done in any particularly new or innovative way but entertaining. A very good festival band, I’d call them, perfect for those times when you’re out in the sunshine and having a drink. Oh, wait.

Out I came. I braved the madness (it was every bit as busy as you’d imagine) in The White Swan to buy a pint of lager – I had lager in my bag already, as I’ve said, but I wanted the plastic cup to pour my own in. When I got out of the maelstrom I was delighted (oh so very delighted, as I’m sure you can guess) to find that apparently minds had been changed. The Maginot Line of alcohol prevention was back in force.

The Destroyers started, and I found myself watching them at a huge distance. The Baron and Lady Baron turned up and couldn’t get in either, but it’s always nice to see them as they are just about the loveliest people going.

I finished my pint and headed in. No! Wait! They’re checking bags now. I wasn’t going to open any of my cans inside the enclosure, but that was of no account. Back to the crossroads I was sent. After a while it was decided that the plastic cups were allowed back in, but I was by then known as a can-carrier.

It was a case of The Destroyers at extreme distance, then. I could just about see them if I squinted, and happily the wind was blowing the right way so you could still more-or-less hear them. They’re quite a surreal band at the best of times, but I have to say this eyestrain set was the most surreal time I’ve ever seen them. Out Of Babel still sounds enormous at range, happily, but eventually I gave up. There didn’t seem much point anymore and I left. I have no doubt that the “you can! You can’t!” changed back and forth another several times as the afternoon and evening progressed.

The idea that a St Patrick’s Day do should be an alcohol-free affair seems a silly one, but if for some reason it’s necessary to make people (who are going to drink anyway unless you shut every licensed premises in a five-mile radius) neck their pints as quickly as they can so they can get back to the action then a consistent policy is needed. The constant chop and change was a cock-up of genuinely massive proportions. I’m not blaming the security lads, who were friendly and affable throughout whilst having to follow constantly-changing orders. Whoever was in charge, though, should probably be repeatedly shot until they apologise and promise not to do it ever again.

Birmingham City Council seem to have some odd philosophy based on the separation of sound and alcohol in Digbeth – you can have a pub as long as it stays deathly quiet or you can have a big stage with bands as long as it remains unusually sober. Never the twain should meet, it appears.

Similar complaints can be found here and here and probably other places too.

Films from the days when the world was black & white and people walked quickly

Posted in Films, Music by Russ L on 13 March, 2009

Despite not really being the most avid follower of films, I really enjoyed a selection of shorts presented by 7 Inch Cinema at Supersonic 2007. Up until now, though, I hadn’t ever managed to get to any of their other events (unless you count the Capsule gig that was part of Flatpack ‘07).

Flatpack, I say? Flatpack is 7 Inch’s sort-of annual (there wasn’t one last year) film festival, which always includes a bunch of events that are a touch more interesting than your basic “sit in a picture house and watch a picture”. Affairs began this year with a very interesting gig from The Destroyers, and y’all know I love me some Destroyers.

Curzonara (for ‘twas its name) told the story of one Waller Jeffs, cinematic impresario (1861-1941). He, it seems, more or less brought cinema to Birmingham by organising film-showings in the old Curzon Hall between 1901 and 1912, often to crowds over 3,000 strong. We got the chance to see some of the films he showed back then, with the sonic accompaniment alternating between The Destroyers playing specially composed themes and narrations from Paul Murphy (who has a lovely voice for this sort of thing) about Jeffs’ life and the filmic tastes of the time.

We got several levels, then: the slightly sad tale of a creative man with a big vision, which just didn’t end up tallying with the way things turned out; some important social history (a poignant moment certainly came as we watched a film showing throngs of youths finishing work at the Kynoch armaments factory and Paul Murphy pointed out that within a few years the Great War will have wiped most of them out); some fun films (Georges Melies’ “Trip To The Moon” is apparently the first ever sci-fi film and charmingly features a bunch of wizards taking a trip to the moon) and some wonderful music, just as one might expect from The Destroyers (I’m still singing “We’re on the moon/on the mooooon/we’re on the moon/on the mooooooooooon”).

People really did know how to mill around in the old-timey films, didn’t they? So much energy expended falling over each other and dithering about in a small area.

Wonderful, wonderful stuff, anyway. The evening turned sharply afterwards and we were at Selly Oak A&E till about one in the morning when Louise’s knee decided to explode again, but never mind.

The Flatpack Festival continues until Sunday the 15th with plenty more for you to have a look at. I nearly missed it because of how cack their calendar page is (sorry to go on about that but it really is a pain in the arse to browse) and I’m probably not going to be able to make it, but I’d recommend the lovely Bella Emerson doing some more live soundtrack larks at Floodgate Kino (never heard of the venue before myself, but there’s a map) tonight. You can’t get better than a bit o’