I would recommend, bredrins and sistrins, that you don your denim-jacket-with-the-arms-ripped-off-and-patches-sewn-on-the-back for this one. It was a Very Metal weekend.
Random metal titbit – “Spinal Tap” is great, but “Bad News” and “More Bad News” are both a hundred times funnier. I would very much recommend that you have a watch of them, if you never have before.
Friday the 29th brought the opportunity to go and see some Unholy Black Metal. Black metal may be only too easy to mock, with the sad panda face paint and the right wing imagery and the guitars that alternate between sounding like a wasp trapped in a jar and someone trying to hum whilst shivering, but… I’m not sure where I’m going with this, actually. There are good bands and bad bands, anyway, just like everything else.
Off I toddled to The Asylum, which is a bit of a rum ‘un – affiliated with Madhouse rehearsal studios, it’s a massive outhouse-seeming thing with a corrugated tin roof (probably not actual tin, now I come to think about it). The barstaff wear nurse/medical orderly uniforms, presumably because the name of the place is “The Asylum”. You can tell they’ve put some thought into this.
I missed the first couple of bands (trainfail rather than my own fault, for a change), and so Anaal Nathrakh started the gig for me. Former members of the ace Mistress (accompanied by others live) play black metal mixed with a plenty of grind (and Nietzschean self-help slogans between songs. Still no camels though, even after all these years). They have a hell of a lot of raw power to their sound and some hooks in their songs, as well as a great frontman in Dave. This makes them uncool in the truest of black metal circles, obviously.
Music aside, the funniest moment in their set occurred when it was brought to the attention of the band that people wanted to stagedive and were not allowed. A speech was given about thinking that this was an extreme metal gig where properly there should be no rules and regulations (well I never did) (this was far more exploitative, meanwhile, than other things said earlier that were fretted over) (anyway…), and a stage invasion occurred. Said invaders then proceeded to stand in a line and politely shuffle off the edge of the stage one at a time. There’s probably a moral in this, but I’m buggered if I can figure out what it is.
After what felt like an excessive wait we had Swedes Marduk, who are named after the Babylonian god rather than the Midlands term of affection. Sadly. They didn’t quite sound like the odds and ends I’d heard some years ago – I recall them having a lot of death metal in their black metal (technical terms whoo!), but that wasn’t evident amongst the more typical sound here-heard. Whilst I confess that I’m not the most rhythmically inclined frood out there (I’m better with rhythm than tonality, but still crap with both), it definitely sounded like there were a couple of times when the drummer changed tempo a bit sooner than the rest of them managed. We’re all only human I suppose (etc etc etc). I still quite enjoyed the bunch of songs I heard before nipping off for the train, anyway, although probably wouldn’t go out of my way for them.
Random metal titbit – Bruce Dickinson’s “Accident Of Birth” is an unjustly forgotten proper-metal album. It’s bloody great.
The following night (that would be Saturday the 30th, chronology fans) I went to the Academy 2. This is the second time I’ve been to the new version, and much like the new main Academy room it’s not great but it’s far better than the old one. More so, really, as a result of the old Academy 2 being the least likeable live venue I’ve ever encountered (the old Academy main room was merely one of the least likeable live venues I’ve ever encountered). The scrum at the bar was three/four deep all night, so I didn’t have a drink. That was certainly like the old one, where I had a strict boycott.
I arrived in time for the last few songs of Violent Arrest, who constituted a punk interlude in this most metal of weekends. I read afterwards that their ranks include former members of Ripcord, Heresy and The Varukers (amongst others) and that’ll gives you a good idea of their sound. Alright enough, anyway. It was especially surreal to hear a band like this in a venue like this – this sort of hall is always weird and inhuman, obviously, but seeing the sort of turn that I’d normally encounter nowhere other than in a Digbeth boozer amplifies that no end.
Victims had an appropriate sound for our move back towards metal from punk – Motorheady/Dischargey total energy and aggression and ramalamalama, but with hooks a-plenty too. Seeing them in a place like the Aca wasn’t as surreal (as such) ar it was for Violent Arrest, but it was nevertheless a real shame – Victims would have torn (say) The Flapper a new arsehole. Still ace, though.
I have to admit to having leaped to a bit of a hasty judgement, after this. The crowd (in the break between bands) were initially very annoying indeed (squealing whenever a band member walked onto the stage to look at his amp or whatever-have-you), but in the long run it turned out that their excitability turned out to be a great thing for the general atmosphere. It is interesting to note (well, I say “interesting”…) that – although this is the fourth time I’ve seen Municipal Waste – the settings in which I’ve seen them have varied a fair bit (two rammed Flapper gigs, the first involving a massive bunch of young’uns all dressed up for the preceding set by Send More Paramedics; a half curtained-off but still barely a quarter full JB’s; and then this – several hundred people going seven shades of mentalist in a glossy corporate venue).
Seven shades of mentalist sums it up pretty well. I like Municipal Waste and their ther-rash metal (or late 80s thrash crossover, if you particularly will) a lot and they were on as wonderful form as ever here, but this was one of those gigs where the crowd provides as much excitement (and need for a tin hat) as the band. Enormous circle pits (ah… it would’ve been fun once, but it’s a young man’s game) and walls-o’-death, and even a new one to me called the “chicken fight”. Folk mount each others shoulders and engage in high-altitude pushing and slapping. The winner (arbitrarily decided, it has to be said) was promised free merchandise if he then crowdsurfed all the way to the back, which he eventually managed after being briefly passed the wrong way. I hope he shared his swag with his mate who’d carried him – surely that lad was the one doing all the actual work.
Fun beyond belief, anyway – antics (antics~!) combined with great silly thrash and lyrics about sharks and being electrocuted and so forth. If you don’t understand the appeal I’ll probably never be able to explain.
Random metal tibit – I happened to hear Danzig’s “Mother” the other day and was confused. Perhaps I don’t dislike the pompous goth-metal dwarf’s music quite as much as I thought I did. It certainly didn’t sound like I thought I remembered it sounding – I have a sneaky suspicion that I may have been confusing Danzig with Type O Negative. He himself always still comes across as a complete tit, whichever way up.
More stuff this month, at least. Still mostly gigs, but there seems to be a decent chunk of theatre 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.
Friday the 1st – “Things That Can’t Be Said” (Re:Volve Theatre) @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A multimedia sort of thing exploring what (supposedly) cannot be said and creating “a visual tapestry of love, life and relationships.” Also at The Arena Theatre in Wolves on Wednesday the 6th.
Saturday the 2nd – Babar Luck @ The Little Civic, Wolverhampton – Completely looney but massively uplifting choons from the ex-King Prawn fella. Gangsta Folk, if you will.
Sunday the 3rd – Municipal Waste @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Ther-rrraaaassshhh. Possibly the worst venue in which you could ever manage to see The Waste, but still.
Sunday the 3rd – Carmina Burana (CBSO & Choruses) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – You can go either as a punter, or you can actually become part of the ensemble and sing. I think that’s fantastic.
Sunday the 3rd – It’s Just Noise Halfdayer @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – Starting at 5:30pm and featuring Blakfish, The Arm, Mills & Boon and many other delights.
Friday the 8th – KODO @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Here come the drums here come the drums.
Saturday the 9th – The Move @ J.B.’s, Dudley – Or the current touring version of The Move, anyway. Apparently Bev Bevan and Trevor Burton are amongst their number, but Roy Wood isn’t.
Saturday the 9th – Reanimator metal night @ The Bristol Pear, Selly Oak, Birmingham – Birmingham’s main extreme metal put-er on-ers bring you this night, headlined by German thrashsorts Nocturnal.
Saturday The 9th – Authority To Pay Recordings night @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Courtesy o’ Capsule, headlined by Fuck Buttons. It seems strange to get so angry about confectionary.
Monday the 11th – Earth @ The Medicine Bar, The Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham – In the field of drone-rock, it is not cosmologically incorrect to say that the Earth is older than the Sunn O))). Hyuck hyuck hyuck har har har.
Wednesday the 13th – The Twang @ J.B.’s, Dudley – There would have been some sort of trope here based around “Hang the DJ/Twang The J.B.’s”, but I decided I love you all too much to subject you to something quite so feeble.
Tuesday the 19th – Storytelling Café @ Wednesbury Library, Wednesbury – Tell some stories. Also at the Kitchen Garden Café in Kings Heath the following night, and that one will apparently have an Irish theme.
Tuesday the 19th – “Bacchic” (Actors Of Dionysus) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – ‘The Bacchae’ with aerial theatre (does that mean trapeze?), specially composed music and ‘inspired’ lighting. Sounds interesting at the very least.
Wednesday the 20th – Dillinger Escape Plan @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – This is the one that was originally due to be on the 5th of November and may or may not have been originally due to also feature Meshuggah (it isn’t now). I suppose, as creators of mad fractured music, it seems apt that their gigs have mad fractured arrangements.
Wednesday the 20th to Saturday the 23rd – “Angel House” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – How two brothers lives can take very different paths. Written by the highly respected Roy Williams.
Wednesday the 20th to Saturday the 1st of March – Birmingham School Of Acting: Spring 2008 season @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Four different plays over a week and a bit. Including “Prince Pippin’s quest to find personal significance.”
Thursday the 21st to Saturday the 23rd – “Waitress For Godot” @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – The Old Joint Stock’s resident theatre company re-lick the obvious Beckett play from a female perspective, involving two women waiting for Estragon and Vladimir. Intriguing.
Friday the 22nd – Megadeth @ The Academy, Birmingham – The ‘Wow, they’re still going! Who knew?’ option for this month.
Sunday the 24th – ISKA International Thaiboxing @ Wombourne Leisure Centre, Wombourne, Wolverhampton – No details or proper link, as ever.
Monday the 25th – Boxing (Pat Cowdell) @ The Burlington Hotel, Birmingham – Usual drill: dinner show, I’ve no idea who might be fighting, etc, etc.
Tuesday the 26th – Mayhem @ The Barfly, Digbeth, Birmingham – Don’t approach any of them and ask them if they’re pining for the fjords. Someone I know did this last time they were over here, and they had him ejected from the premises (more things happened but they may be libelous to relate). I’m not joking, this is a true story. Anyway, unholy black metal and so on.
Tuesday the 26th – Eels @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – That recent BBC4 documentary about Mark E Of The Eels’ rediscovery of his grandfather (Hugh Everett III) and his ‘Many Worlds’ interpretation of quantum mechanics was really good. Ben Swizzle writes about it here. On that note, I’m currently reading Quantum – A Guide For The Perplexed by Jim Al-Khalili and would recommend it to all, explaining (as it does) things very well to simpletons like me as well as being beautifully illustrated. I’m off on a bit of a tangent here, but since this gig is already sold out I expect you won’t mind.
Tuesday the 26th – Rolo Tomassi @ The Little Civic, Wolverhampton – Supporting I Was A Cub Scout, who I once saw supporting Rolo Tomassi (funnily enough) but didn’t think were anything particularly special.
Tuesday the 26th to Saturday the 1st of March – ‘Metamorphosis (Vesturport Theatre) @ The Rep, Birmingham – I’m reeeally looking forward to this: a staged version of the Kafka short story with a score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Get Carina Round and some jalapeno peppers involved somehow and this would include pretty much everything I love in the world.
Wednesday the 27th – “Here Be Monsters” (Rejects Revenge) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – The world’s first steam-powered spaceship, and apparently lots of silliness. Sounds like fun to me. I can’t help be thinking of Werewolves and Queen Victoria, though, getahmean?
Thursday the 28th – Alicia Keys @ The NIA, Birmingham – She wasn’t all that great when I saw her a few years back (well… she’s not the sort of artist you want to have to grin and bare onstage skits from, is she?), but I would assume that by now she has enough material to fill a set without arseing about pretending to take phonecalls from a prop phonebox. And that’d be quite good.
Thursday the 28th – Boxing (First Team Promotions) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Black Country vs Birmingham derby! Matty Hough takes on Max Maxwell for the Midlands area middleweight title, and it will be great. Also featuring some of our other local faves like Lyndsey Scragg, Rob Hunt, Dean Harrison, etc.
Friday the 29th – Editors @ The NIA, Birmingham – And so you’d better not make any spelling mistakes.
Friday the 29th – Fairport Convention @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – It’ll never be said in fair England that I slew a naked man, either.