Call me Russ L

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Three Two more gigs

Posted in Music by Russ L on 27 May, 2008

Ooh, lummy. More gigs1.

I was vaguely hoping that Monday the 19th’s Guillemots do at The Wulfrun would have The Courtesy Group as secret openers2, but I didn’t hold out any massive expectation. As it turned out I didn’t manage to get there until it was time for the last few songs from the main/tour support band Royworld3 anyway. Theirs was the more stadium-rock-ish end of modern mainstream indie, with a potentially-interesting bit of layering with all the keyboard sounds ‘n’ such but no feeling of life and/or soul about them. They seemed to go down well with the (large) crowd, though, so I wouldn’t listen to me if I were you.

Guillemots are a band who continually turn out to be A) a lot less outré and unusual then they’re commonly made out to be, and B) a little bit less outré and unusual than you actually expect them to be even when you take ‘A’ into account4. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a bad thing, though. They play ‘pretty’ songs for the most part, and there’s nothing wrong with that5 .

So yes, they do have a nice mix of sounds and there’s a bit of variation to them, it picks up to the realms of energetic at times (“Kriss Kross” will indeed make you jump6) and epic at others, but always returns to “Aaah, that was fairly lovely”. Your man there’s voice is all over the place but it doesn’t really spoil anything. He had a good manner with the hecklers, too – tolerant at first, then just outright God-damn cold to silence them exactly at the point where everyone was sick of hearing their nonsense.

I really enjoyed them. They’re a band I feel I should have more to say about. But I haven’t.

(The Birmingham Post bit doesn’t have a hell of a lot to say either, but succeeds in stretching it out a bit more than me. EDIT: The Birmingham Live review is here).

The original plan for Tuesday the 20th was to go and see The Ting Tings, but a glance at their website that morning revealed two things: 1) That their “That’s Not My Name” single had hit number one in the national charts two days prior7, and 2) that the gig was sold out. “Hmmph,” I said, and resolved myself to not going. Come the actual night, of course, I received intelligence via text message8 of the fact that they were letting people pay on the door. Double hmmph. It was too late by then, of course. Triple hmmph.

No point getting bitter about it now, I suppose.

To the ever-‘orrible Bar Academy9 on the Wednesday, for a touch of noisiness from Today Is The Day. I arrived in time for the last few songs by Complete Failure10, but from such as I heard they were just your ordinary grind with nothing grabbing me.

In spite of their crappy name, Jucifer took the Russ L ‘Best Set Of The Night’ Award11 in a walk. They’re a two-piece, consisting of a chick on guitar + vocals + red hair and a bloke on drums + mania + Davey Crocket hat. The base element of what they played was a Melvins-ish sort of groove, but with added sludgy bits and blasty bits and most importantly12 a ridiculously huge sound. It would’ve been big coming from any band, but from a two-piece it had to be heard to be believed. Awesome, awesome stuff, and it’s just a shame that the quieter vocals were lost in the mix as I think they may have added even more to the experience. Definitely a band to see again next time they come over, anyway.

This was the third time I’d seen Today Is The Day and they sounded a lot more metal this time than I remember them being – a lot more about the riffs and rigid beats, and less ‘sonic evocation of boiling water’. My memories quite often seem to warp over time, though, so I wouldn’t read a fat lot into that13. I can say that this was probably the least effective of the three times I’ve seen them, though – you won’t find many bands more destructive-sounding and it was ace for a fair bit, but after a while the whole thing started to seem heading toward the boundaries of the outlying regions of the disputed zone next to ‘one dimensional’. A few parts where your man Austin sang on his own over a distorted synth backing track were presumably meant to break it up a bit, but didn’t have that sort of effect.

Please note that I’m not saying they were bad by any means, and I would say I enjoyed their set to some degree, but I did find myself skipping the encore14 and leaving after the end of the main set. I could actually hear them still blasting away from the bus stop near Masshouse Crossroads, which I thought was pretty cool.

(Thee Claw has not one but two posts about this gig15, the latter including comical tales of getting lost on the Queensway).

Hey, I wrote about a Today Is The Day gig and didn’t make a single ‘Steve Austin’ joke. I can’t help but feel that I should get some sort of reward.


1) Not that I go to anywhere near as many as I used to.

2) Just imagine seeing them in a great big venue like this. It’d be surreal. And they’re pretty surreal to begin with.

3) Isn’t that a town on the Norfolk Broads?

4) It’s difficult to divine precisely who is at fault here.

5) This is me getting old, presumably.

6) Yes, I imagine they have heard that one before.

7) Blimey! I knew they were supposed to be quite the up-and-coming band and all the rest of it, but I didn’t realise they were already that famous. Still, I approve. “That’s Not My Name” is a gloriously fun superpoppers summit between “Hey Mickie” and “My Sharona” and completely deserves to get a write-up on Popular one day, which is (I believe) the first prize in this sales-competition-lark.

8) Now there’s something you don’t often get chance to say.

9) My thoughts from then still apply now.

10) I believe that translates as ‘Epic Fail’ in your modern parlance.

11) Best Set Of The Week, in fact. They may even have just about nicked Best Set Of The Month.

12) Well, sort of.

13) Also: I’m quite stupid.

14) Encores are a bloody ridiculous idea anyway.

15) Although when the fella says “maybe 80 people were there watching” what he actually means is “less than half that number were there watching”.