How long have I lived in Bearwood? 21 years? Yep, something like that. And this is the first proper gig I’ve ever been to at The Bear? Disgraceful. Still if you’re going to pop your Bear cherry better make it a good one eh?
First up - and not the kind of support act you’d expect at a gig – a preview of a new play about what would happen if football was banned for a year. Not being a big football fan I wouldn’t give two hoots but I appreciate just how ingrained the ‘beautiful game’ is in the nation’s psyche and One Year Off takes a linguistically colourful look at the implications in turn using the premise to explore some amusing angles...hmmm...what jobs would footballers do if they weren’t kicking a ball (and each other) around some grass every week? I reckon Rooney would make a decent doorstop.
Next up the The Prodigal Scum, Birmingham’s self proclaimed “Premier Skiffle Punk band”. That’s a pretty apt description. They seem to share a little DNA with Brum’s Dirty Old Folkers too in their use of barbed humour in their songs and at times, to my damaged ears at least, legendary French World Music punksters Les Negresses Vertes. Hell yes...or...er hell oui perhaps. I believe the band’s lead singer is Peter Byrchmore, ex-The Nightingales and current Goldblade-r, and he certainly put on a suitably in yer face performance, calling out one dude who clapped out of time with the rest of the crowd and snarling the lyrics with a venom that’s sadly all too lacking these days.
The last time I saw Is I Cinema was waaaaaay waaaaaaay back in 2009 at The Rainbow. They impressed me then with their clever polished sound (with just a nod to Radiohead here and there) and five (jeez..FIVE!) years later they’ve buffed it up even further, blending prog, dub and ambient...all on the first track alone.“This is the sound of an uncomfortable amount of self indulgence” noted the lead singer at the start of it all and, well, yes, there certainly is a little of that proggy naval gazing on some if the tracks but when it sounds as epic as set highlight Apocrypha in full flow I’m more than happy to indulge ‘em. Sadly yet another overlooked gem in Birmingham’s iPod.
Speaking of Brum’s overlooked gems Miss Halliwell are capping off an unusually fertile period of live activity with a rare home gig. Dressed in a hooded jacket and looking like a prize fighter limbering up for a backstreet battle to the death the band’s ever enigmatic leader Miles Perhower kicks off with a warning that their kit may spontaneously combust during the set. This isn’t an idle metaphorical threat, apparently it was making odd noises during the sound check...presumably in protest at the glorious battering it was about to take? Like a post punk Fagin Perhower spends the entire set stalking the stage and dancefloor, spitting out his lyrics and proclamations as drummer Rose of Bearwood provides impressively powerful, potent beats. Despite the threat of imminent immolation Miles soon cranks up the volume, if he’s going to go down in flames let’s make it loud eh? The only sign of meltdown is purely human though as Perhower grabs a handful of band flyers, screwing them up and chucking them across the floor, later to join ‘em lying on his back as the band continues to play their inspired cover of Reach Out, I’ll Be There which, springing from his mouth, has a world weariness that’s a thousand ‘Miles’ from The Four Tops version. Elsewhere self penned set highlights Allegedly Gory (post pop anyone?) and Naturl Obbit@ are the soundtrack of a creative mind beating itself black and blue, “I will defend this passion to the end” sang Miles on the latter with an intensity that could split atoms. As ever it’s all over too soon and Miles once again disappears into the night. As we descend into The Bear’s downstairs bar some bloke’s bellowing out Sinatra’s My Way on the karaoke. It’s pure coincidence of course but at that moment the words uncannily seemed to sum up just what continues to make Miles and Miss Halliwell such a draw for me...
“For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!”
It could almost have been written for 'em.