Monday, August 25, 2008

Platform Promotions All Dayer @ The Sound Bar, Saturday 23rd August 2008

Putting on several bands in one night must be a bit of a logistical ‘mare. Putting on 10 in a day…two days in a row…well that’s just nuts. But that’s what the lovely Becs from Platform Promotions has done and, whilst we had a few ‘no shows’, there was plenty in the first day’s line up to keep me happy. First up were Emily and brother Ben. I did catch their surnames…but I’ve forgotten it…’cos I’m old and a bit dim. Emily has a beautifully clean, clear voice together with a strong batch of self penned songs. She bravely tackled Winehouse’s Back To Black as well (not an esay song to sing) and did it oh so much better than our Amy does these days. She remembered the words for starters…always the mark of a professional. Seriously though, she added her own touch to the track, which ain't easy when you're doing such a well known piece.

Next up (and bringing an enthusiastic crowd of fans), street poet and all round local legend Barnesy. He’s got a nice knack of combining a sort of high speed, rap tinged vocal delivery with a surprisingly soulful voice on tracks like Estates Are In A State (his best song so far in my humble opinion and well worth a listen), a Gil Scott Heron of the Midlands if you like. And I do. (NB: the more I listen to this track the more I love it...this is seriously good stuff...)

Long Road Ghosts were up next. LET’S ROCK! Set the amps to 11. Oh yes. I have to say that, thanks to a brilliant performance, they really grew on me during the set. As with one or two of the bands today there’s a hint of Oasis to the music, but I got a real Led Zepplin edge at time too. Influences aside, it was a fine showing with plenty of pounding riffs and oodles of energy.

After popping out for a restorative Wetherspoon’s gourmet burger (don’t tell me I don’t know how to live eh?) and a pint of Old Rosie (hangover ahoy), we got back in time for Dastards. There’s a distinct ‘80’s new wave vibe about the band that (being a child...oh alright then...teenager of the 80’s) I really liked. It’s tricky to get this sound just right ‘live’ and, listening back to their My Space tracks, the full Dastards experience didn’t totally come through. I reckon they could do with a massive PA and a fookin' massive stage with lots of dry ice and three female backing singers in PVC. In other words I think the live sound needs to be beefier…not sure how you do that…maybe use more beef (I never said I was technical). Check out ‘Take A left’ from their My Space page and you might get an idea of what I'm wittering on about, well worth a spin.

The Red Caps were next. If you’re a fan of the Verve, Kings of Leon or Oasis you’ll be in heaven here (it seems that they’re even doing a gig with Bonehead soon). Blending 70’s stoner rock with classic Manc attitude, one of their guitarists even had the balls to play one of those double necked jobbies…he did it jolly well too. I can’t even play the triangle…

What can I say about Old School Tie that I haven’t said before? They invented the Oreo biscuit and all live in a giant toadstool just outside Rubery…I haven’t said that about them before…that’s probably because it isn’t true. What is true is that they have a brilliant way of making every track sound like it’s a jam, employing an organic way of playing that few bands could, would or should attempt. That OST pull it off every time says just how accomplished they are. And they played a storming version of God’s Electric Super Scene with the dude from 360 on bongos (pictured below)…YAY!

The night ended with yet another spirited performance from Birmingham’s very own good time skankfathers, 360. It’s impossible to keep still whilst watching them and I ended up doing some kind of strange hand dance with Lady B (to one of their standout tracks ‘Crazy Lady’ as it happens…how darn appropriate). It's a shame there aren’t more bands like 360 about these days. Thanks to multi-racial, genre blending groups like The Specials and The Beat, the Midlands was the birthplace of a unique form of UK ska way back in the dim and distant 70's. Fast forward 30 years and it's strange that, given the diversity of cultures in our fair city, how little diversity there is in our bands (and our audiences for that matter). I can’t help feeling that our future, musically and socially, should lie in the same direction. After all, the city that plays together, stays together...just a thought.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Untitled Musical Project / Your Biggest Fanclub / Sabotage Left / Theatre of The Absurd @ The Rainbow, Friday 22nd August 2008

Rain. The Credit Crunch. Georgia invading Russia invading Georgia. Plane crashes. Rain. Misery. Global warming. Gary Glitter (or, to give him his proper name 'disgracedformerpopstargaryglitterrealnamepaulgadd')...yes, it's a rum old world at the moment ain't it? Thankfully we have Theatre of The Absurd to cheer us all up. Oh. Check out 'Winter Of My Discontent', a glorious piece of self abuse (not like that...perverts), half sung, half spat out. In another world you'd have Morrissey covering that and getting to number one. But sadly we live in a different universe. Perhaps 'disgracedformerpopstargaryglitterrealnamepaulgadd' could record it as his big comeback single? Passionate, bullshit free, witty and pithy...we're lucky to have Theatre of The Absurd in our midst. A one man kick against the pricks.

Next up Sabotage Left...the only band on tonight's bill that I'd not seen before (I am becoming a local music whore now aren't I?). Probably the most polished of all the bands tonight, they've clearly paid their gigging dues and are reaping the rewards with positive reviews a plenty and a track on a recent Radio One podcast no less. Alternating between the chiming guitars of bands like Editors and the full on thrash of someone like At The Drive In, tracks like 'Sleeping Nicotene' nail that anthemic feel perfectly. Special mention must go to the drummer, Damon, too, who almost drummed to the centre of the earth. He must have muscles the size of beer barrels. Good work dude.

Okay, time for Your Biggest Fanclub. Through the thick, heavy fog that passes for my memory, I recall being well impresssed with their performance last time. This time? Well, slap my thighs and call me Uncle (nope, I have no idea what I'm on about either) they've gone and got even better. I have high hopes for this lot. First of all they have the good sense to use one of my photo's on their MySpace page (Rankin? David Bailey? Man Ray? Pah...mere amateurs) but secondly (and arguably more importantly) they're impoving by the second, absorbing all kinds of good shit, mashing it up and making it their own. Imagine Two Gallants collaborating with Foals and The Clash probably won't get any idea of what they sound like (The Good Time Jones sounds like that to me though...and this is my review so ya boo and sucks to you). Who knows, perhaps by this morning they'll have changed again into a disco three piece (check out the DJC Business remix...perhaps they already have). The point I'm trying to get to is that Your Biggest Fanclub one of the most exciting prospects for local music that I've seen for a while. And they have a Stylophone. Bowie used a Stylophone...and Rolf. 'Nuff said.

Finally, the three piece carnage factory that is Untitled Musical Project. Sounding (and looking tonight) like three chaps having a blazing row in a local musical equipment emporium they make the kind of noise that goes on inside my head whenever I have the misfortune to go down Broad Street on a Saturday night. It's loud, shouty, angry, sweaty, punky and lots of other words ending in a y. Except the word 'why' itself. It is what it is. An untitled, unidentifiable, unclassifiable punch in the guts. And it's all quite brilliant. This is what live music is all about. Unpredictable, messy and guaranteed to give you a bad head in the morning. After knocking down amps, drums and mics during the show vocalists Andrew and Kieren ended up wrestling each other to the floor in a howl of feedback. So it seems only fitting to end this review in the same way...ready...aghabydbuehej*jchhbz^xxsdg+ydeghb!!dfjutorlemsnsgwgwbdud!!!

All a-bored?

It's Bank Holiday weekend. Yay! It's probably going to piss it down. Boo! You don't have to go to work/school/The Job Centre for three whole days. Yay! But you've only got £5.36, an old stick of chewing gum and some fluff in your pockets. Boo! Fear not dear friends. Pop yourself down to The Sound Bar (Corporation Street) and for a mere fiver you can attend the Platform Promotions 1st Birthday Alldayer featuring, amongst others, Hearing Aid favourites Old School Tie, 360 and Anyone For Shark? Oh yes. Who knows, offer the bar person (oh how PC am I?) some of your fluff and you may even get a drink (Disclaimer: I am sure that The Sound bar doesn't accept fluff in exchange for drinks, but it's worth a try n'est ce pas?).

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Crimes / Hot Monocles / The Cubans / Danny's Last Dance @ The Rainbow, Friday 8th August 2008

'Happy Birthday to ya, Happy Biiiiiirrrttthday', so sang Sir Stephen Wonder in his tribute to 444 Club's first birthday, written over 30 years ago. Now that's what I call foresight. Yes, Kamikaze's weekly trawl through the best in local (and touring) talent is one year old. I've not been to every one of them but I must've made about 35 or so and every single one has thrown up something well worth listening to. That ain't a bad strike rate in my book. Enough of the history. Tonight, as most weeks, saw four bands again, kicking off with Danny's Last Dance...all the way from Lahndaaan...and even further down Saaaarf (leave it you slaaaag, he ain't worf it etc etc). Imagine Zappa forming a Disco Ska band with Hard-Fi (check out Simmer Down) and you've got a fair idea of their sound. Anyone with the balls to include the word 'sadomasochistic' in a lyric deserves a medal...or a nipple tweak...or maybe both. There's a glorious 80's vibe to quite a few tracks, Disco Bitch in particular reminded me of watching Top Of The Pops with Peter Powell dressed in gold lame (I should point out that Peter Powell was on TV wearing the gold lame, he wasn't with me...and I wasn't wearing the gold lame...I had a cute lime green waistcoat in the 80's but never had the chutzpah top try gold lame...pity really, I have the eyes for it). Anywho, I found Danny's Last Dance pretty irresistable. Their lead singer gave it 110% and the only improvement I could think of would be matching outfits for every single band member (maybe gold lame?).

Next up, Che's mates, The Cubans. They're a young band from Wolverhampton who seem, in a really short space of time, to have garnered some great press, coverage on BBC local radio and a record deal. Not bad eh? They've certainly got some good tunes and I get the sense that some solid gigging over the next few months will really add to their performance, sound and confidence. Musically there's shades of The Jam, Oasis and (in the shoutier bits) Sham 69 but they're also capable of more introspective material (a little Keane-ish). In fact lead Cuban (that'll be Fidel's brother then), Chris' vocals seem more suited to these tracks. Their last track 'Nice Guys Finish Last' (it says Lust on their website though...s0 maybe it's Lust...) was one of the highlights for me. Some nice keyboard action lifted it head and shoulders above a lot of other indie stuff and, although the mad rock out bit at the end seemed a little tacked on, they really let rip. Listening to that track again (and again) it's a real grower and, for what my opinion is worth (bugger all really) if I were the band I'd look to develop that more quiet/loud and harmony/noise approach even further.

Third up, and the crowd swelled visibly like Ron Jeremy's member at a fluffers party, Hot Monocles! Bringing a Coptor-ish ferver, head Monocle, Dan, twitched across the stage like a man possessed. I'll add some more s's there I think...posssesssssessssseeeddd. It seems (and I could be wrong here) that the band have been around for a while, doing a few gigs, recording a few tracks but not really giving it all the time their talent (and boy, they have talent) deserves. According to their Myspace page this is all changing...and I hope it does. They're already a groin thristingly good R & B combo (reminded me of a meatier version of The Bluetones in places too...) with potential to turn into something really special. The energy's there, the tune's are there, the technical ablity's there...they know what they need to do. Go get' em boys. (PS: Listen to Snobs - that's some good riffing - to get a feel for what they sound like now...a lot of their other tracks were recorded a while back and don't do them justice).

Finally, call the cops, it's The Crimes. They don't seem to have any tunes up at the moment (maybe they've been nicked?). Their myspace is as quiet as a the grave. So I'll have to rely on my memory of last night (oh my age...memory....what's that?). Only joking. I have the memory of one of those big grey things with a long nose and flappy ears. Anyway, The Crimes are that rare beast...the six piece. Even rarer they have two drummers! Well, one drummer and one bongo player. Frontman, Seb, has a great big belter of a voice (the clearest of the night), perfectly suited to their funk tinged rock sound (actually the band has a much wider mix of styles but I'll need to see 'em again to get more of a fix on everything that's going into the old melting pot). One or two cover versions (Lenny K's Are You Gonna Go My Way and The Police's Message In A Bottle...beat that for a combination!) were done brilliantly and, judging by the crowd's reaction (they went mental at the end), The Crimes could soon be packing out The Barfly, let alone the Rainbow. Formed in late 2007 (so less than a year old...aren't I clever?) they're already tight and capable of getting an audience whipped up, which is an impressive sign at this early stage. I'd like to see some tunes up on MySpace now though, ASAP.

That's that then. One year, over 200 bands, several litres of vodka and coke, one major hangover (and a couple of minor ones) and a few less braincells. Here's to the next 12 months...

Oh, before I drift off, a word about the DJ bit (that comes in between sets and at the end...up to 4am). Last night saw the first outing for Utopia. Housetastic. If you like your House, you'll love it. I didn't stay until 4am (cos' I'm 106) but the DJ seemed to be playing a, in the words of the kids 'bangin' set'. Girl I'll House you...(one for us old skoolers out there). Ciao.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Big Chill @ Eastnor Castle - Thursday 31st July - Sunday 3rd August 2008

When I was a little nipper I went camping at Eastnor Castle (home to The Big Chill). There I was standing there, minding my own business, when along comes a wasp and stings me. Just like that. No provocation. No warning. Nothing. Some 30 years later there I was. Standing there. Guess what? After three decades of wasp sting free living one of the little bastards does it again. They are truly the hoodies of the insect world. Boo and hiss to their stupid yellow and black jackets and sharp pointy bits. This has bugger all to do with The Big Chill really, but I do like a good moan. Happily there was little else to moan about. Don't tell anyone, but The Chill could well be the new Glastonbury. They even had the Burrow Hill Cider bus. Glorious. The crowd seemed pretty nice all round. The toilets were bearable. Even the weather behaved itself. The music? Oh yes, good point. I'm so chilled I nearly forgot about that bit. Managed to see (deep breath here) Jamie Woon, Jim White, Son of Dave, Martina Topley-Bird, Pama International, a bit of Roison Murphy, The Irresistble Force, Lykke Li, The Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir, The Hot 8 Brass Band, Fujiya & Miyagi, a bit of The Mighty Boosh, a bit of 'Still Black, Still Proud', a bit of Trentmoller, Norman jay, Orcestra Baobab, Jilted John (yes...Gordon is still a moron), Imagined Village (featuring the lovely Eliza Carthy), Camille and Leonard a few snatches of other acts here and there. Not too bad for £150. Laughing Len had to be worth that on his own.

Oh, I caught Man On Wire too. Awesome documentary about French tightrope walker Philipe Petit who managed to cross between the Twin Towers 8 times...on a the wind. It's a simple, but beautiful film. Somehow watching it in the rain late Thursday night/Friday morning made it seem even more extraordinary. Although the Burrow Hill Cider may have helped. Musical highlights from the long list above include The Hot 8 Brass Band from New Orleans(you've just gotta hear their version of Sexual Healing), who fuse jazz, funk, rap and...surprise surprise...brass. Loved it. The Imagined Village includes the talents of godfather of folk Martin Carthy, daughter Eliza and the darn fine Chris Wood. It's a multicultural updating of folk, with dhol drumming, rap and some radical re-workings of classic tunes (Billy Bragg's 21st century Hard Times of Old England is in there). Quite brilliant...moving too...just like folk should be. Leonard Cohen was, of course, God-like. But the biggest thrill of all was Camille (pictured). One of THE best gigs I've ever seen. Mainly acapella - she's backed by a small team of thigh slapping, chest beating, stomping, beatboxing, washing up bowl playing fellow 'frogs' (her words...). Imagine the madness of Bjork crossed with the pop sensability of Robyn, some Art Of Noise, a bit of Edith Piaf, jazz, soul, dance, theatre, a bare ass...words could never do it justice. It was 'le complete package' (or should that be 'le package complete'...'O' level French fail me not). Even if you normally ignore my over enthusiastic ramblings (and who can blame you) don't let this one get away. It was the beautiful highlight of an equally lush weekend. In a word (or three) - The Big Brill (oh my aching sides...).