Congratulations all round to the good folk behind Rootsville, who managed to put on a brilliantly ‘eclectic’ bill. Barring a few minor grumbles (the two hour ‘drift’ in set times being the most significant…I’m sure the weather didn’t help) it was pretty much as good as I’d hoped it could be. Arriving at midday and staying until just before 4…am…we packed in a fair number of bands/artists, so I won’t bore you all to death with a blow by blow account. First up though, and well worthy of a mention, were the Birmingham Community Gospel Choir (can't find a link...must be one somewhere...). Personally, religion is something I just don’t get. My bad I guess…especially when the big Grim R comes a knocking and tells me I’ve got a one way ticket to Brimstone Towers, but hey, at least I’m being honest. If there is someone up there he’s gotta respect honesty right? Having covered all bases, back to the music. Whilst I don’t get religion, I do get Gospel. Perhaps it’s the purest music there is? These people believe every word 100%. And it shows. The Birmingham Choir is blessed with some powerful, but well controlled voices, brilliantly arranged and backed with simple instrumentation. Beautiful, inspirational, powerful stuff. Even with my cold, hard agnostic heart, I just loved it.
Despite being beset by the technical hitches that became a bit of a feature throughout the day (like I say it was slashing it down, and the stage lay under a beautiful, but slightly leaky railway arch) Chrissy Van Dyke’s voice was as powerful as it was back in the days of Plutonik. Walking a more jazzy path these days she’s a local treasure and deserves muchos respect. The last track of her set, which got a bit funky on our ass, really showcased her at her very best. Ace. Catch her at the Hare and Hounds this Thursday to see what all the fuss is about.
Soweto Kinch was the next artist to grab me by the musical genitalia (ouch…but in a nice way…good grief, can you tell I haven’t had much sleep?). Jazz hop (although he’d probably hate that description…so if he ever reads this I’m sorry) behemoth, rising from the streets of B19, I’d seen his name but never heard his music. Lazy people might draw a link with Gil Scott Heron. So I will. Soweto links jazz with hip hop quite brilliantly though and, although I’m only starting to really grasp the subtleness of the language of jazz (hey, get me, next I’ll be wearing a beret and saying ‘niiiice’ like one of those annoying Fast Show Pub Bores – yes, you know who you are) you get a real feel for the streets though the music. The freestyle rap bit of the show (using words from the audience that included ‘octopus’, ‘octave’ and ‘ricochet’) was one of those, ‘how the hell does he think so quickly’ moments.
Where next? Ahhh yes. The Young Zulu Warriors. What the chuff? Seeing a stage under the railway arches of Digbeth invaded by a throng of Zulu warriors is a pretty surreal moment. Microphone free, they made an impressive sound, but it’s the visual side of things that makes such an impression. All the leaping around and high kicking made me feel quite exhausted and, when they left the stage, I wandered off in search of liquid refreshment. Returning a few minutes later I discovered they’d merely left the stage for a costume change and they came back on for another 45 minutes or so. Now that’s rock n’roll. Like I say, it was a head spinningly eclectic bill, so before you could recover your breath (over on the Medicine Bar stage) we caught The Dholblasters. Dhol drumming originated in the Punjab (there, who says Web 2.0 is just full of self obsessed nerds spouting shite that no one's interested in...it is...but, hey, it's informative too!), but seems to have a pretty strong following here in Birmingham (I think the Dhol Foundation has its roots here too). If you’ve not heard it in action, it’s a little like being caught under a tin roof during a particularly heavy hail storm…only a lot more musical of course. Awesome drumming, strong vocals, clean, crisp dancing and a treat for the eyes, ears and feet from start to finish.
Good grief. I’m getting knackered again just writing this. Bear in mind this all took place in one day, and it’s just the highlights…and you get some idea of what you missed if you weren’t there…anyway, onwards and upwards…or backwards. The Inspiral Carpets. Gawd love ‘em. Looking even more like a bunch of builders than they did back in the day, you forget just how many great tracks they wrote back. Watching This is How It Feels - and a number of other tracks for that matter - sung by a guy in his 40’s gives them a whole different meaning. Purists may sneer (go on, sneer, there, that made you feel better didn’t it?), but you can’t knock the tunes (click on the video thingy to the left of this review for some vids), the reaction of the crowd and the sheer pleasure that comes from trying to sing the bits that Mark E Smith sang in I Want You (I know there was something about the Dutch East India Company in there somewhere, but the rest…answers on a postcard please).
I love The Ripps. Nuff said. Spikey, punky, shouty, powerpop loveliness…in a treat sized package. Most of the audience invaded the stage during the first number (I stayed behind, reliving flashbacks of my Gallows incident), before being ‘invited’ off by security. Leave our pop kids alone ‘The Man’! By this time quite a few people were a little drunk. Time was dribbling its way towards 3am (when we had intended to depart), and there were still two bands that I wanted to see – Dandi Wind and The Presets. The ‘technical’ difficulties delayed Dandi Wind by a good 20 minutes or so…but I'm glad we hung around. Like the deranged lovechild of Lene Lovich and Martin from Selfish Cunt, Ms Wind careered all over the stage shrieking into her mic like that little girl from The Exorcist, baiting the audience, crowd surfing (dangerous given the state of the crowd and the fact that she just wore a pair of black panties, the remains of some tights and a top held together with pins). There are tunes in there somewhere though too. Jolly good they are too. There’s one that goes a bit like ‘bom bom a bom a dingle ram a dam a ding dong’ which I really liked. But then I’m a little odd.
The Wind finished (with Ms Wind climbing a good 15ft up the stage rigging and leaving the mic wrapped up in its steely fingers) and the clock struck 3.50am. The Presets kit was still being loaded onto the stage and we faced the choice of catching the last of the taxis (they always seem to melt away at around 4am) or the first of the buses. I was up for the former but Lady Baron (who needs a good 15 hours sleep a night) had lost the will to live. So, it was a case of gone with The Wind (I didn't just write that did I?). Given the fact that I have to work for a living and really shouldn’t fall asleep at my desk too often, it was probably a wise move. If anyone was there for The Presets, let me know what they were like.
NB: Misty’s were as great as ever, but you know that already don’t you? Oneyesblue, Voodoo Jones and Osibisa all deserve honourable mentions too, but I didn’t see all of their respective sets…