Violet spill blood (literally), sweat and beers for Oxjam 2011
31 artists, 7 venues, one aim...to raise loadsa cash, dosh, wonga...call it what you will...for (cue 70’s DJ voice) charidee. Yep, some of Birmingham’s finest gave up their Saturday to physically and metaphorically rattle the ol’ tin, giving warm hearted punters the chance to catch up with a pretty dazzling range of genres...everything from the gentle and acoustic to the LOUD AND THRASHY.
As with most of these multi-venue jobbies it’s impossible to see everything and a date with 6 Music’s Stuart Maconie (not literally, although he’s a fine looking man) took me away from the action for a while in the early evening. What I did see of it all was confined to two venues, Cafe Blend (an upmarket coffee shop near the Mailbox) and The Flapper (slightly less upmarket, but none the less one of my favourite venues in the whole wide world). First up at Cafe Blend, Louise Petit, a sweetly voiced singer songstress who bravely battled against a cackling punter (clearly either unaware that someone was performing or just plain ignorant) to deliver a beautiful ukulele powered set of originals and covers (including The White Stripes classic I Think We Are Gonna Be Friends). With the country twang of Raindrops at Sea and the footstomping homage to love, Marry Me, the name might be petit but the talent’s a whole lot bigger.
After a quick break another chance to see Young Runaways (replete with the Wolverhampton Symphony Orchestra...both of them!) who’ve just recorded the song of their career (so far) in Closer, a soaring brass gilded pop folk classic (it was released as an EP last night). With a couple of covers, a wonderful run through Fleetwood Mac’s Second Hand News and a spirited Message To You Rudee, and the unveiling of a rather fine new track from the next EP (they don’t hang around this lot eh?), Room With a View, they deserve to be...oh I can hardly bring myself to type it...what the hell...a...runaway success. Yes, you’re right, there was no need for that was there?
Fast forward a few hours and I’m plunged into the screaming world of Violet, a post hardcore band from Derby. One vocalist sings, the other does his best to rip what must be left of his throat, into ribbons. I rather liked it. Loud, trashy and as energetic as a nuclear power station on meltdown they delivered one of the most rock n roll moments I’ve seen in a while when the screaming bloke accidentally smashed into the nose of the bassist. Pretty soon a torrent of blood was dripping down his t-shirt, over his bass and splashing onto the floor. Did this stop him headbanging like a loon? Nope. Now that’s rock n’motherfunking roll. Ultra violet.
After a crack team of cleaning specialists had mopped up several litres of O positive Conquistadors punk math rocked the place. The self penned stuff was great but they surpassed themselves with a math rock cover of Cat Stevens Matthew and Son (Mathrock and Son anyone?). Quite brilliant.
Next up God Damn, a testifying blues grunge prog rock pop (yes...pop...) metal thrashup...and if that sounds like a pretty awesome combination you’d be right. It is. Their theme tune God Damn, veers recklessly from brooding noodly bits to full on aural assaults, toying with your senses like a bulldog with a kitten. Neat. Wigger does a similar trick of luring you in with a gentle opening section before kicking in your ears with some dirty bruising guitars. Makes Queens of the Stone Age sound like pussies. A (skull) cracking performance.
Last up Romans. Like the night’s opening band, Violet, they use the dual vocalist approach, with bare chested drummer Denny providing the screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaam element. Around this throbbing heart the band’s lead guitarist and bassist (who did a staggeringly good job in his first gig with the band) provide some surprisingly intricate flourishes, icing the kick ass cake. Whilst it ain’t a new trick the ying and yang of the two vocalists works particularly well. The contrasts are as black and white as you’ll get with the ‘singer’ having a pretty decent harmony and the ‘screamer’ tearing his tonsils out whilst drumming the bejesus out of his kit. So furious was his drumming that he lost a stick part way through a song (hell...maybe it just disintegrated) but kept on playing without missing a beat. Nice work there fella. Given his showmanship (and vocal role) I’d like him up front but it’s a minor gripe. When they hit their stride, on the smash hit in waiting Coffee for instance, like their historic namesakes, they’re a frankly unstoppable force.