Friday, May 30, 2014

Flowered Up - Weekender

Just heard this track (the FULL version) for the first time in ages on Lauren Laverne's 6 Music show and it seems pretty appropriate for a Friday. I actually saw the band play live during the Madstock festival waaaaaaay back in 1992. I can't remember much about it unfortunately but that's middle age / cider for you. I can't pretend I was ever off my face every weekend either, in reality I spent most Saturday nights working in a convenience store in Hove which was, in its own way, a pretty trippy experience back in the early 90s I guess. There certainly seemed to be a bit of a musical / cultural buzz around back then. The whole Madchester / baggy thing was in full flow although one Welsh guy in my halls of residence kept banging on about some new group from America called Nirvana. Wonder whatever happened to them?

Anyway, Weekender is something of a forgotten classic, a hugely ambitious piece of work (especially by the standards of the day) that lasted almost as long as some albums and which came with a suitably zeitgeist surfing vid. Sadly it didn't do the band much good. They split in 1994 in a drugged up haze with lead singer Liam overdosing on heroin in 2009 and his brother and fellow band member Joe doing likewise (at least that appears to have been the cause). Even their dancer (one or two bands had 'dancers' back then, most famously Bez from the Happy Mondays), Barry Mooncult, ended up doing time for drug offences.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

(Sunday) Xpress yourself...

Sunday Xpress returns this week (on Sunday surprisingly enough) with two named acts – Derrick D and the Back Bones and the mighty Miss Halliwell – and an open mic slot too which all kicks off at 4pm June 1st (Adam & Eve, Bradford Street, Digbeth). How civilised eh? Just in time for cucumber sarnies and a nice drop of Earl Grey...or Stout and peanuts in my case. I have it on good authority that Miss Halliwell are promising a pretty much BRAND NEW set, written and rehearsed in a manic period of activity over the past few weeks, which is frankly bonkers but indicative of the band’s seemingly relentless sense of ambition. One day the world will wake up to the raving genius that is Mr Miles Perhower but until then I guess we've got him and his band all to ourselves. Here's an old Halliwell classic to get you in the mood...

...and here's a more recent one...although don't go expecting either. What they'll come up with next is anyone's guess...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Remi Harris Trio...'MAC' a date for this Friday

With his debut album Ninick (released by legendary label Big Bear Records) attracting oodles of praise from those in the know ( rising gypsy jazz star Remi Harris and his trio play the MAC this Friday May 30th 8pm in their first ever 'proper' concert performance. Tickets are a mere £10 (£8 concessions) and available right here, right now   

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

White Denim / Deathcrush @ The Glee Club, Monday 26th May 2014

With no less than half a dozen rocktastic albums under their belts and an enviable live reputation you’d think Austin four piece White Denim should be investing in a nice range of giant inflatable animals and playing stadiums the size of small African countries by now. But here they are in the relatively modest Glee Club which, although sold out and rammed to the rafters, is probably around the size of the average stadium dressing room. Still, it doesn’t seem to bother them, nor opening band Deathcrush a raucous no wave trio from Oslo fronted by two ladies in cut off denim shorts (blue denim sadly, not white...they missed a trick there) and a dude on drums.  Kicking off their set with the catchily titled Lesson #16 for Beatmaster V / Fun (at least that’s what it seems to be called) they added a little punk, rap and screamcore to the no wave mix creating the kind of track that manages to be both sludgily head nodding and spikily head banging at the same time. 

Neat neat neat. By the next track lead singer Linn Nystadnes was out in the crowd screaming “put your hands on my shoulders” at people. No one did sadly, although you half expect she might have ripped ‘em off and beaten the offender to death with ‘em if they had but still, bonus points for leaving the relative safety of the stage this early on in the set. Older listeners may detect a Slits meets Nirvana vibe in amongst the edgier more experimental no wave sound and that’s a pretty decent combination in my book. In the wrong hands this might come across a little contrived but Deathcrush pull it off remarkably well with none other than the genial great uncle of punk, Goldblade’s John Robb calling their sound "a stunning and effective dissemination of the New York sassy cool trash aesthetic into a new century and with their own vital slant". Er...quite...I really couldn’t have put it better myself.

White Denim may not be ‘sassy’ and I’m not convinced they bring a ‘cool trash aesthetic’ either but one thing they do do (not dodo, that’s just a big extinct bird...) is...pause for dramatic effect...ROCK. Hell yeah! Ahem. In fact within just a couple of seconds of opening track Pretty Green they’d managed to blow a transformer. Now that’s ROCK.  Like much of White Denim’s output there’s a classic 70s feel to it (Free anyone?) and, like many of tonight’s best bits (which was practically the whole TWO hour show...yep, TWO hours my friends, now that’s value), it drifts off into a bit of a head melting jam that makes me wish I had looooooooooooong hair to shake. Happily some of the crowd did, losing several million braincells in the process no doubt, but once the Denim get in the groove resistance is frankly futile. 

Speaking of groove next track Corsicana Lemonade is such a prime slice of southern fried funk rock that even the clinically dead would end up shaking their hips a little. Topping off a trio of Denim classics (FYI both of the first tracks were culled from 2013’s highly recommended Corsicana Lemonade) they travelled back to 2011’s album D for a fabulously funked up version of River To Consider. It’s got a kind of Steely Dan feel to it and at times this evening it doesn’t take an overly fertile imagination to see White Denim as their natural heirs, especially given the band’s musical prowess (Steely Dan were sticklers for musical perfection too). 

With the aid of a sizeable collection of effects pedals (nice footwork there dude...Fred Astaire would be proud of you) lead singer James Petralli managed to tease some impressive sounds out of his guitar whilst drummer Joshua Block provided the meaty beats. As much as the two of them rock out the other 50% of the band, Terebecki on bass and Jenkins on guitar, are relative pictures of calm, keeping the whole thing grooving along the highway...albeit with the odd off road detour for some more funky/psychy jams. Highlights? Too many to note but Anvil Everything added a little Who style Pinball Wizard-ish riff to proceedings, I’d Have It Just The Way We Were invited Mssrs Jazz and Funk to the party and Shake Shake Shake summoned up the spirit of Jimi Hendrix jamming with Iggy and The Stooges. 

By the time we got to the glam boogie of At Night In Dreams I...and many others...was a sweaty mess (serves me right for attempting to pogo in a waistcoat and tie I guess). It’s a glorious track, catchy enough to bounce up and down to but with enough intricate riffs to please the beard strokers too, not an easy (Little) Feat to pull off. That’s one of the really impressive things about the Denim, a seemingly effortless ability to embrace several different genres, often all at the same time, without it sounding like mushy mess. “This is the only band we go to see” yelled one particularly enthusiastic fan down my ear towards the end of the set. In fact she’d travelled all the way up from that there London town to see them (she’s off to their London gig at the somewhat larger Shepherd’s Bush Empire this Wednesday too). Can’t say I blame her. In the absence of a time machine White Denim represents the best chance any of us will get to experiencing what many would consider to be rock’s golden age, whilst still adding their own unique spin on things. “I want to give you a trip to remember” sang James on encore Tony Fatti. I’d say job done there my friend. White Denim...jean geniuses.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

Indietracks 2014...all good chuff!

The line up for this year’s Indietracks festival (25th – 27th July, Derbyshire) looks pretty chuffing great with Gruff Rhys, Joanna Gruesome, Sweet Baboo and Spearmint all making an appearance together with some of the best in indie loveliness from here and abroad. Here's a few tracks to get you in the mood!

I went last year and it was frankly one of the friendliest and most chilled out festivals on earth. Set next to a working steam railway with a lovely tin chapel as one of the venues there’s none of the corporate cobblers that infects many of the bigger festivals these days and it’s an attitude free zone too. For hardcore indie fans it’s heaven but the music on offer’s surprisingly diverse so whatever your taste (okay, maybe death metal’s a little under-represented but you never know what Gruff’ll do next) I pretty much guarantee you’ll find a least one new favourite band over the course of the weekend. Did I mention the owls? Oh yes, there’s owls too. Real, live owls. Owls like indie music see. That’s a fact. Real ale? Yep, a lovely range of real ales and ciders too. Gigs on steam trains? Why not eh? Trust me it’s a truly unique and wonderful weekend that'll leave you at least 72% happier than you were before you went.

Tickets are just £72 for the three days (accommodation is separate, I heartily recommend camping at Golden Valley Camping and CaravanPark, a mere stumble away from the site) and available right here

PS: Here's the review of Indietracks 2013!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Courtney Barnett / Honeyblood @ The Hare and Hounds, Sunday 18th May 2014

I was pretty much sold on Courtney Barnett from the moment I discovered that one of her songs was called Avant Gardener. Clever. I do love a good pun.  Happily the track’s as impressive as the title which, despite a still relatively low profile over here in the UK (Courtney’s from Melbourne), probably explains why this gig at the Hare and Hounds sold out a while back.

First up though Glaswegian’s Honeyblood, two self proclaimed “Noisy Scottish girls”. That ain’t a bad starting point, add to this a healthy dose of indie punk, grunge and garage and you’re just about there. With opening numbers Fall Forever and Biro you can kind of see where the oft made comparisons to The Pastels and that whole C86 thing come from. Debut single Bud ramped up the jangle a little more and for the first time this evening you got to hear lead singer Stina’s true vocal ability. Impressive, there’s a touch of the Soderberg sisters (First Aid Kit) in there, albeit shot through with a little Scottish attitude. From then on the set just got better and better with Stina adding a little growl to the slacker grunge of Choker (off the band’s debut album out in July on Fat Cat Records) and her guitar doing its bit by adding some authentic crackle and distortion as a result of being dropped earlier that day. I’d keep that in if I were them. If it ain’t broke...well, you know what I mean...don’t fix it. In true save the best till last fashion though the pairing of All Dragged Up and Killer Bangs, both well stocked with instantly hummable catchy choruses without losing the band’s rawer edge, hint at great things to come.  

Speaking of great things time for Courtney Barnett who’s seemingly sprung from nowhere recently to become (whisper it...) a bit of a big deal (some enthusiastic souls have even been throwing in the odd comparison to Dylan!). Recently she did a duet with none other than Sir William (Billy to his mates) Bragg and several dates on this, her first UK tour, have sold out. Listen to tonight’s first track it’s not hard to see/hear why. David takes Bowie’s Jean Genie riff and adds a Beatles-ish chorus to Courtney’s unique worldview that she delivers in that sublimely laid back (some would say deadpan) drawl of hers. What’s not to love? Courtney and co can really rock out though with Lance Jr’s rumbling basslines and crashing drums underpinning the kind of guitar noise that wouldn’t be out of place on a My Bloody Valentine album. Two tracks in and she’s got us.

Unsurprisingly given her laidback delivery CB seems wonderfully comfortable up there, freely engaging in the kind of easy going banter that somehow defies many artists. “What you drinking up there?” enquired one member of the audience “Water” replied Courtney drily “You should try it sometime...”. Comedy genius, well it made me laugh anyway. “We bought some t-shirts and records” she announced later on “if you want to buy buy ‘em!”. If only all advertising was so direct eh?

Perhaps predictably Avant Gardener was one of the highlights. Seemingly a simple stream of consciousness it’s lyrically rich, one of those songs that reveals new gems pretty much every time you listen to it. Is it the only song ever written about someone suffering an anaphylactic attack after doing a little light gardening? Yep, I reckon it is.

Still not convinced? Cop a load of these lyrics from another bit of Barnett brilliance this evening, History Eraser:

“I found an Ezra Pound and made a bet that if I found a cigarette I’d drop it all and marry you.
Just then a song comes on: “You can’t always get what you want” – the Rolling Stones, oh woe is we, the irony!
The stones became the moss and once all inhibitions lost, the hipsters made a mission to the farm.
We drove by tractor there, the yellow straw replaced our hair, we laced the dairy river with the cream of sweet vermouth.”

Come on now, that’s clever and strangely beautiful stuff eh?

Well and truly earning her encore Courtney returned to the stage alone for a Bragg-ish solo run through Depreston, another of her seemingly mundane tales which, like some of Bragg’s best stuff, has (in my mind at least...and that’s a funny place sometimes) hidden depths and meanings. House hunting has never seemed so poignant.

After the show she hangs out on the fire escape for an hour or so (as you do), chatting with fans clutching stuff they’ve “just fucking” bought to be signed, shooting the breeze and patiently posing for photos until the venue’s closed up for the night. Who knows, perhaps even this will make it into one of her songs one day? A star is (Mel)born...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Correspondents / The Fire Beneath The Sea @ The Institute, Saturday 17th May

Having formed in 2007 it’s taken a whole 7 years for The Correspondents (DJ Chucks and singer/dancer Mr Bruce) to get around to releasing their debut album. But then again Mr Bruce (aka Ian Bruce) also has a career as an artist to keep him busy so we can kind of forgive them. Besides that given the energy that he expends during tonight’s gig I reckon he probably needs to lie down for a month or six every time they play live...

First up though Liverpool’s The Fire Beneath TheSea, billed as a 16 piece (SIXTEEN! Jeez) Hip Hop/Funk/Jazz/Ska/DnB/Phuxubtlety (not sure what the heck that is) band. This evening I could only count 11 of ‘em but that could be down to my pitiful ability to add up. Even so the stage was packed with 4 MCs, a soulful female vocalist, a bass player, a guitarist, a drummer, a saxophonist, a trumpet player and a dude on the ones and twos. Between them they produce a head spinning mash up kicking off with Hips Go Wild, which somehow manages to conjure up The Destroyers, 2 In A Room and 90s scouse indie oddballs Space all at the same time. 

Once the ska fuelled Poor Little Fishy gets going a decent proportion of the early evening crowd are bouncing up and down and this sets the fairly blistering pace for the rest of the set. They’re ruddy good fun and to be honest I reckon they could start a party in a morgue. Smile Like A Clown with its Gene Krupa style drum breaks and thumbs up dance moves got one punter calling for an encore...even before the set had finished...and anticapitalist anthem We Don’t Need Things...should be adopted as our new national anthem. Sod Metallica, stick this lot on the main stage at Glastonbury Mr E.

By now, after the hottest day of the year so far and some frantic skanking from opening act and crowd alike, it was getting a little moist in there as the stage was set up for The Correspondents (this involved some of those pull up banner things that companies often use in shopping centres which, using the bands distinctive black and white graphic was a simple but pretty effective piece of set dressing). They’re a curious but infectious proposition, I guess best filed under the tag of ‘electro swing’ a fusion of house, hip hop and electronica coupled with the kind of music your great grandmother may well have been getting down to in the 20s. As already alluded to the other big draw is Mr Bruce’s unique style of dancing, something we got to see plenty of this evening. Things started off in a fairly low key chilled out kind of fashion though with What Did I Do?, a fine exercise in crooning existentialism and possibly the best chance to hear the more subtle side to his vocal ability. This was all just lulling us into a false sense of security though. As Well Measured Vice kicked off so did Mr Bruce. It’s frankly impossible to describe the sight of this dude in full flow. Fred Astaire on E? A man attempting to send all of his limbs flying clean off his body in four different directions? Strictly Come Raving? What you can safely conclude is that it’s one of the most astonishing things you’re ever likely to see...and I’ve witnessed Broad Street on a Saturday night. The song itself (it’s easy to lose track of the fact that there’s lyrics and stuff with all the flapping about going on) focuses on what appears to be one of Mr Bruces favourite subjects, specifically that the world’s a pretty dull place without a little...ahem...slap and tickle. I couldn’t agree more. Sadly we live in a world where pretty much anything mildly fun is labelled as a, drugs, booze, a result half of us are going to end up dribbling and wetting ourselves in an overcrowded ‘care home’ at the age of 106. What the ‘government’ should be doing is encouraging us all to eat, shag and drink ourselves silly then end it all in a cocaine fuelled orgy in our mid 40s. Hmmmm...sounds like a plan to me.

Anyway, whilst Mr Bruce is advocating well measured vice he also appears to be warning the powers that be that banning everything will just send it underground. Which is, of course, exactly what happens. Sensible chap...Mr Bruce for Prime Minister...seriously, he’d do a much better job than anyone else up for it right now. Oh yes...back to the now the atmosphere had reached sauna like conditions, stifling enough if you’re just standing there but Bruce continued to dance his ass off, returning to championing vice in What Happened To Soho?, the band’s tribute to what used to be London’s hotbed of sin and depravity but which is now, sadly, a sanitised ghost of its former self. I used to love wandering around Soho and whilst its 60s and 70s heyday had clearly gone until fairly recently it still felt a little naughty, the kind of place frequented by proper ‘characters’, life’s flotsam and jetsam, the kind of people who’d pop out for a pint of milk and then stumble back to their bedsit 6 days later sporting a tattoo and missing at least one digit. Now it...and they...are gone, wiped away by London’s reinvention as a place for the financially rich but soulless elite. Jeffrey Bernard must be spinning...slowly mind his grave. 

At this point Bruce was now more sweat than man and I’m fairly convinced that most of his vital organs must’ve resembled dried figs. And still he danced...Fear and Delight came across as a crazy soundtrack for a scat rap version of Top Hat whilst Say You Love Me shoved Cry Me A River into a food mixer with a bootleg jungle tape and pressed maximum blitz. Some 12 hours later I’m still exhausted just thinking about it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that either Mr Bruce posses lungs the size of an airship or he was miming from time to time (hell, surely no one on earth could dance with that degree of ferocity in that heat AND keep singing throughout...?!) but that’s not really the point of The Correspondents live experience. In a word (a made up word mind you) dance-tastic.

PS: The Correspondents' spiffing debut album Puppet Loosely Strung is out now. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Prince / 3RDEYEGIRL @ The LG Arena, Thursday 15th May 2014

He may have left his fans in the Midlands crying when he played a series of ‘secret’ shows back in February but just a couple of months later he’s returned. Okay so his venue of choice, the cavernous LG Arena, could hardly be described as intimate but given the fact that his last Birmingham gig was way back in the early 90s there were probably one or two people who quite fancied seeing him...

By the time 3RDEYEGIRL came onstage at around 8.45pm (after a series of teasing lights off, lights on routines) the place was pretty much packed. Wearing a rather snazzy printed white silk outfit Prince was out last carrying a bunch of balloons which he released as new track Funknroll bursts into life. 

Boy he’s (still) a sexy mutha and there’s no doubt about it, ladies and gentleman, after a fairly long period in the wilderness (all that symbol stuff, giving away albums with the Daily Mail etc) he’s back. It might not be right up there with his very best stuff but hell, it’s close enough. Any slight fears that he might be purely sticking to the new material were swiftly dispelled with what could best be described as a wet dream of a setlist kicking off with Take Me With U, Raspberry Beret, Musicology (quite possibly outfunking the Godfather himself, Mr James Brown) and freshened up version of Kiss (given a little bit of an electro makeover). 

Forget NPG, Third Eye Girl has NRG and Prince is the throbbing (steady now) heart of it all, dancing his ass off (he kept this up for most of the night too) like a man half his age, or mine come to that. What followed was nothing short of a masterclass in showman...and woman...ship, packing in more hits than any sane group would attempt in a couple of hours. Of course this inevitably means that you only get brief bursts of some numbers (in the case of The Most Beautiful Girl In The World just one line) but you’d be there ‘til dawn otherwise. The new stuff continued to hold its own against the classics with the pop/funk/rock hybrid of Pretzelbodylogic going down (as it were) well and the lounge-tastic solo piano segments giving the crowd a moment to catch its collective breath ready for the next funkathon. Vocally he's strong as ever, which is pretty remarkable given his range, and it's great to see an artist who's seemingly as hungry to be up there on stage as he was back in the 80s. In fact you get the distinct feeling that he's genuinely at his happiest when he's playing music. Legend has it that some of his home jams go on for days...literally. He was pretty chatty too, throwing out the odd suggestive comment to one or two ladies who caught his eye and generally whipping up the rest of us. As the show climaxed (it’s damn hard to write a Prince review without getting all suggestive) the hit counter went off the scale with 1999 and Little Red Corvette sliding (see?) into a medley that included When Doves Cry (presumably because they failed to score tickets to this show), Sign O’ The Times, Alphabet Street, Pop Life and I Would Die 4 U. 

Encore Purple Rain featured yet another awesome guitar solo (come on now, admit it, Prince is Jimi’s lovechild right?!) and a curfew busting cover of Play That Funky Music left all those still standing well and truly funk drunk.

Being purely objective for a second the venue’s not the best - no venue this big can ever really capture the magic of live music- the sound was a little muddy to begin with and some may have found the extended jams a little tiresome (although equally others, me included, loved 'em) but frankly I’d have gone to watch Prince play a hole in the ground with cheese in my ears. He didn't play it tonight but here’s a message if he’s reading...when it comes to putting on a show like this Nothing Compares 2 U.

Setlist: Funknroll / Take Me With U / Raspberry Beret / U Got The Look / Musicology / Empty Room / Let’s Go Crazy / She’s Always In My Hair / Guitar / Plectrum Electrum / FixUrLifeUp / Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) / Pretzelbodylogic / What’s My Name / How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore / Diamonds and Pearls / The Beautiful Ones / Electric Intercourse / Controversy / 1999 / Little Red Corvette / When Doves Cry / Sign O’ The Times / Alphabet St. / Forever In My Life / Hot Thing / Housequake / Nasty Girl / The Most Beautiful Girl In The World / Pop Life / I Would Die 4 U / Purple Rain / Play That Funky Music 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What a moustache-rophe!

I don't generally comment on Eurovision. Everyone knows that the voting's heavily influenced by political and cultural factors rather than the quality of the song or performance, which rules us out from ever winning again. Oddly pretty much everyone sings in English these days though, perhaps not the best way to reflect Europe's diversity but still, c'est la vie. Which brings us neatly to France's entry, a lively slice of impossibly catchy tongue in cheek Europop that should've been right up there in the top that 1. France has a bit of a track record for gently taking the piss out of the whole thing as witnessed by Sebastien Tellier's memorable performance in 2008 (which kind of predicted this year's winner too...check out his backing singers).

Given my own lip adornment of course I had a bit of an instant soft spot for this year's entry from the French...which sadly attracted just deux points. Which is a bit merde if you ask me. Anyway, it seems as though the band in question Twin Twin, is having the last laugh as the song's sneaking into various charts across Europe. If you haven't seen/heard it yet sit back, pour yourself a glass of vin rouge and enjoy...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Rock of Ages @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Monday 12th May 2014

Another week and another feel good musical at The Alex (kudos to The Ambassador Theatre Group for sending a seemingly endless stream of West End worthy shows out on the road by the way). Moving on from the 70s of the Bolan bio-musical 20th Century Boy this time it’s the 80s courtesy of Rock of Ages, an unashamedly tongue in cheek look at the era that gave us poodle haircuts, spandex and dudes who’d raided their mum’s make up bags (hey...I only did it once).

One of the great things about The Alex is that everyone who works there really seems to get into the spirit of things. Most of the staff had adopted 80s rock fashion for the night and the usherettes did a great job of whipping the crowd up even before the show had started...I’m pretty sure half of them would have got up there on stage given half the chance. Seeing how much fun it looked up there tonight who can blame them?

If you’ve not seen either the film or show before don’t go expecting a serious run through some of the biggest rock hits of all time. In fact it’s more Carry On Jovi than Bon Jovi with every 80s rock cliché well and truly played for laughs. There’s a plot (boy meets girl, girl cops off with someone else in the loo, girl gets back with boy) all set against the backdrop of an LA bar threatened with redevelopment but you may well be too busy singing along to the torrent of hits to notice. Altogether now, "I'm a cowwwwwboy, on a steel horse I ride, I'm waaaaaaaanted, dead or alive". They don't write 'em like that any more do they eh? 

As with most of these musicals you only get the odd snatch of some of them but given that they whip through 30 or so that’s pretty understandable. The choice of songs reads like a Now That’s What I Call Rock Music compilation album, everything from Just Like Livin’ in Paradise through to the truly anthemic Don’t Stop Believin’. Whilst most of the show doesn’t take itself too seriously there are some pretty impressive vocal performances in amongst it all plus just enough fret wanking to keep the guitar heads happy. Come on, you’ve got to have a bit of fret wanking in a rock show right?

The entire cast’s rocking brilliant, from the show’s narrator and source of most of the comedy, Lonnie (brilliantly played by Stephen out for the hilarious penis routine) through to sassy strip club owner Justice Charler (Rachel Macfarlane) whose gospel tinged vocal was a real highlight. Ben Richards, who seems to have a knack for playing slightly sleazy dudes (he was great as Franklin Hart in a recent version of 9-5), nailed rock god Stacee Jaxx whilst Noel Sullivan and Cordelia Farnworth were perfect as the musical’s love interests Drew and Sherrie (who Stacee’nailed’). Aping many 80s rock videos there’s plenty of bare flesh on display up there but much of it is for titters rather than titillation (honestly), besides it’s probably keeping the entire British thong industry going too. 

It’s pretty easy to sum up this show in just a few words. In fact one of the featured tracks does the job for you, Nothin’ But A Good Time. Dig out your spandex, crack open the hairspray and you’re pretty much guaranteed just that.

Rock of Ages is on at the New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 17th May. Tickets here!    

Monday, May 12, 2014

Eastern Electronic Festival’s Music By The Canal featuring Raju Mali, Amerah Saleh, and Alisha Yasmin Kadir, Saturday 10th May 2014 @ Away 2 Canal Boat

There should be more gigs on boats, especially canal boats. Granted there’s not much chance of a circle pit breaking out or anyone crowd surfing (that could get messy...) but there’s something about the intimacy of a space like this that heightens the connection between audience and performer, especially as the whole thing took place in the relative brightness of a drizzly Saturday afternoon to boot.

This gig was part of the Eastern Electronic Festival, a month long celebration of new British Asian musical talent held right here in Brum. All three of this afternoon’s artists were commissioned by the organisers to produce a piece that summed up what Birmingham means to them and they each performed in between a commentary about the City’s heritage as we chugged slowly down the canal setting up a neat contrast between the old and the new. First up Raju Mali’s piece entitled Home, a gentle folk tinged musing on his sense of belonging. There’s a touch of Jeff Buckley to his vocal in places together with a hint of that wonderful quivering (I think it might be called a wide vibrato but I could just be making stuff up again...) edge that runs through a lot of traditional Asian music. Not being of Asian heritage myself I can only guess at what it must be like growing up with that dual cultural mix, although happily we’re now living in an age where the lines are getting pretty blurred as ably demonstrated by Raju's poignant performance. 

Next up some inspiring spoken word courtesy of Amerah Salah, who was rather splendidly bedecked in a bright pink silk bow tie. You don’t see enough bow ties these days, let alone pink silk ones. Asking us all to close our eyes (maybe to prevent us from being bedazzled by the tie) she flipped the brief on its head a little taking a more inward looking approach. It was a thought provoking piece (hopefully it and all of the other performances will be uploaded soon) taking in everything from accepting who you are, how you look and how you see and treat others through to seizing the day and hugging “like it will be your last”. What a wonderful sentiment eh?

Last up the effervescent Alisha Yasmin Kadir with Your Child, a touching track reflecting the fact that she’s partially a product of Birmingham’s “concrete streets” but equally the people that inhabit it. I’m guessing the line about being “A child with a lack of four walls” could be construed several different ways but bobbing gently along I took it to be an overwhelmingly positive reflection of a City that’s happily free of barriers and prejudice, an epithet that could equally be applied to the entire Eastern Electronic Festival itself.

Find out what else the Festival has to offer (there are a wallet/purse pleasing bunch of free events too) right here!

PS: You can take a trip on the canal...minus the music...via Away2Canal

Friday, May 09, 2014

Scott Bradlee and Postmodern Jukebox...big in Japan?

It’s difficult to tell these days how ‘big’ a band is in each country. In the past the ‘big’ bands would be on telly and in music magazines and things were pretty clear but now...lord (or indeed Lorde) knows. Having left school about a million years ago I have no idea what dem yoot is listening to either. Probably for the best. Of course we still have the charts but they seem to be filled with different names every week, many of which vanish without a trace as quickly as they appeared. That’s the power of the intermess I guess. One day you can be in your bedroom singing into your hairbrush and recording it on your iPhone, the next you can have a squillion hits on You Tube and a record deal. The reason for today’s musings is a band/collective of musicians known as Scott Bradlee and Postmodern Jukebox from America whose covers of new and old tracks in a vintage style have attracted up to 8 million hits each on You Tube (see the Puddles the clown vid above for instance). Is that a lot these days? It seems pretty impressive to me. They’ve done around a hundred or so to date, naturally some work better than others whilst a fair few are ruddy great (they're all good fun though). They’re popping over to the UK in June so you can judge for yourself (they play The Institute on Monday 16th June, tickets here). Here’s a few more to help pass the time on a slow Friday afternoon at work...

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Courtney Barnett...from down under to over Hare

One of the best new singer/songwriters to have filtered through over the past year or so is Aussie Courtney Barnett who has a rare knack for penning delightfully quirky and rambling lyrics and song titles (check out 2013's EP How To Carve A Carrot Into A Rose) all delivered in the kind of laid back (some would call it deadpan) drawl that can make Eels' Mark Oliver Everett sound positively upbeat. That's a good thing by the way, think early Beck meets Bob (Dylan) and you'll have a half decent idea of what it all sounds like. Of course you could just click on the vids eh? Ain't it marvellous! Anyway, one or two of her UK dates have already sold out but if you're super quick you can possibly grab some for her Hare and Hounds show on Sunday May 18th from our good chums at Birmingham Promoters. Trust me, this'll be a good 'un.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Lunar Festival picked as one of the best!

Chuffed to see Lunar Festival picked as one of The Sunday Times' Top Festivals for 2014. Having been to my fair share of big festivals (step forward Glasto and V) I've concluded that the smaller ones are oh so much better. Not only do you not have to queue for several hours to relieve yourself you've also got a fair chance of seeing a decent portion of the bill too, as opposed to the back of some bloke's head as you trudge from one field to the next. Anyway, Lunar Festival's just a month away now and there's even a rumour of a heat wave coming up as May edges into June...hurrah!

Tickets available right here for an astonishingly reasonable £85 for the whole three days...including camping. Frankly Temples are worth the price of admission on their own...ruddy awesome. 

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Babe - Tilt

Some years back I saw a ruddy great band called Findo Gask supporting Everything Everything at The Flapper and drunkenly stumbled into the lead singer in the loos. "You're ruddy great" I slurred...probably...I forget...I was a little drunk. Perhaps unsurprisingly they split up not long afterwards (no one wants dodgy blokes slurring over them in loos). Despite my pleadings they failed to get back together again and that was that...until now. It seems that a couple of the band (including lead singer Gerard Black) are back, back, BACK with a new band called Babe. Cop a listen to the new single, Tilt. It's ruddy great. If I happen to bump into the lovely Mr Black I'll have to tell him...