Who’d have thought it eh? B-Town’s now seemingly home to the rebirth of old skool house! At least it will be if Greg Bird andFlamingo Flame have their wicked way. Sporting a sparkly eye mask, leather gloves and chain of fairy lights Bird knocks out the kind of tracks that crate digging DJs would willingly sacrifice their Numark turntables for. Singing live with a dude on an array of laptops and electronic gizmos and a guitarist adding additional colour to some of the quieter tracks (shades of Durutti Column in there perhaps) it was a masterclass in bringing this kind of music to life, one of the most glorious, soul lifting, hand in the air like ya just don’t care sets you’re likely to see. Both Animals and Skool (pick of their latest must have EP, Black Tableaux) were stunningly good, temporarily transforming the Hare & Hounds into some kind of fabulously sweaty gay disco in 1980’s Chicago. That’s a rather marvellous thing by the way. Simply one of the most exciting new bands in Birmingham.
By a strange quirk of fate (and this was only lined up at the last minute due to a venue change) the next artist actually comes from the windy city. Don’t go expecting any deep house from Young Man (aka Colin Caulfield) though...deep thoughts, yes...but deep house, nope. Think of the band as a kind of Aerial Pink Floyd and you won’t go far wrong. Playing only their fifth ever gig in England (and the last night of this exploratory tour) they get into some rather fabulous motorik grooves then spin off into more of a psychedelic vibe from time to time whilst Colin ruminates (stream of conscious style) on such subjects as...er...scraping your knee when you’re a little kid in the Dear Prudence-ish Scrape On The Knee. A real grower.
Until recently Becky Jones, aka Saint Saviour, was probably better known as one of Groove Armada’s vocalists, since then she’s gone on to release some stunningly great solo stuff. Last spotted in Birmingham in April 2011 (at a criminally under-attended show) she’s spent the intervening time raising dosh through Pledge Music to record and release her rather splendid debut album, Union, together with an impressively diverse bunch of covers. Happily all this hard work and self belief seems to be paying off and, despite the lack of major label backing, she drew a more respectable and enthusiastic crowd this time. Anyone who made the effort was well rewarded. Sometimes as a reviewer you struggle to find the words to suitably capture the feel of a gig and it seems pretty futile to even try. This was one of those shows. This is partially down to Becky’s fabulous voice (the closest you’ll get to it is Kate Bush meets Siouxsie Sioux meets Tori Amos meets Enya...hell, even that’s not close though) but it’s her ability to seemingly lose herself in a performance, blurring the boundaries between putting on a show and sharing some kind of intimate moment with her audience that makes a Saint Saviour gig something truly special.
Playing...no scrap that, that implies pretence...living tracks from Union together with a few older numbers (and a beautiful reimagining of M83’s Midnight City) the hairs were seldom down on the backs of necks, spines barely had chance to recover from their tingles and tears weren’t far from falling. I’m actually saying no more than that. Go and see her live if you have a chance. And soon. I had the pleasure of chatting with her after the show and it didn’t come as a surprise to learn that this may be the last tour for some time (a fact she’s posted on her website already). The reason? Well, for a growing number of artists who are (either through choice or circumstance) self financing tours and recordings it’s tough out there. You’re seemingly more likely to be spending time raising cash and promoting yourself these days than you are creating the very thing that matters most. The music. The whole creative sector’s in a really odd place right now. In the music world we’re still in that state of flux between the old days (record labels, pluggers, music press) and the new world (Pledge Music, self management/promotion, blogs) and pioneers like Becky (and thousands like her) deserve our support or you can just imagine what we’ll end up with in 20 years time. Microsoft compatible pop clones, iTune friendly crowd pleasers and ‘talent’ show rejects. It really doesn’t have to be like this when we have a Saint Saviour amongst us right here, right now. Treasure her people, treasure her.