Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sunday Xpress featuring Nightingales / The Courtesy Group / The Nature Centre and many, many more @ The Edge, Sunday 28th June 2015

Whilst a not insignificant proportion of the British public is gently festering in a field in Somerset watching a speck in the distance and wondering who the hell it is (ignore me, I’m only jealous) I’m in Digbeth...or Deritend...or somewhere beginning with D. Not been to this venue before but it’s like one of those effortlessly cool ‘urban’ spaces that you read about in Vice Magazine but never get around to visiting because either (a) Countryfile is on or (b) you’re terrified of going anywhere without at least two dozen security guards, sixteen CCTV cameras and a steady supply of WKD.  

If you’ve not ever been to a Sunday Xpress happening before, shame on you. The format’s fairly simple, an open mic slot between 4-ish and 7-ish anchored by the legendary Big Bren then bands from then onwards. Oh yes, the whole thing’s FREE too, financially and metaphorically speaking. From spoken word acts through to acoustic singer/songwriters it’s all hugely entertaining. Highlights today included a moving piece of prose from Sue, Paul’s Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien, Tim’s Spiderman theme tune spoofing Ciderman, “Goddess of Fabulousness” Swingerella (who’s shortly off to the Edinburgh Festival) and Will French’s set but to be honest every single performer we caught genuinely deserved their slot.

Open mic section over The Nature Centre kicked off the billed bit of the night with some brilliant slices of leftfield indiepop. With Beth from Kate Goes (not sure if they’re still going...) onboard seemingly no instrument is out of bounds; clarinet, sax, synthesiser/sampler thingy, banjo, flugelhorn...okay so maybe not the last one but I’d bet she could play that too. If you know your local indiepop you’ll be familiar with Kate Goes and Misty’s Big Adventure and The Nature Centre are worthy contributors to the cause. Any band with a song called Give Me Some Codeine And I’ll Give You The World must surely be destined for greatness, even if it is ending up playing a session on BRMB (the title of another set highlight). What’s that? BRMB ‘s now called Free Radio? Good grief. Next you’ll be telling me that they’ve cancelled Tiswas...

Prog, post punk, performance poetry, pop (albeit pop that’s off its tits), The Courtesy Group are all of this, none of this and...er...a lot more besides. Fronted by the seemingly possessed Al Hutchins who spent most of the gig either in the crowd, on the window ledge or clambering up various bits of the venue they’re arguably one of the most criminally underrated bands in Brum (and beyond). Imagine the bastard offspring of John Lydon and Mark E Smith drunk on Moloko Plus fronting the kind of band that could quite possibly raise Peel from the dead. They seem to have a new, additional drummer in place too who kicked things up a notch adding bells cow into the mix. Now who doesn’t love cow bells eh?

Looking like he’d necked half a shandy or two (hell, that’s what Sunday afternoons are for isn’t it?) Robert Lloyd, the only original member of cult post punkers Nightingales (genuine Peel favourites back in the day) wandered onto the ‘stage’ and eyed the crowd like a man looking for a fight. Several fights in fact, possibly involving some groin kneeing, eye gouging and major dental work. That pretty much set the tone for the gig, with Lloyd in typically confrontational form variously berating the audience for “letting the wankers in” (presumably a reference to the election, unless he’d caught someone whacking off in the corner somewhere) and calling us a “bunch of fuckers”. He might be in his mid 50s but clearly age ain’t mellowed him and that’s a very, very good thing indeed. We need the prick kickers, trouble makers, revolutionaries and moaning gits more than ever these days and this evening Nightingales well and truly messily ticked all these boxes in one of the most energising gigs I've seen in many a moon (and I've seen a few). 

The set highlight came early on courtesy of 2014’s Dumb and Drummer which hammers together rockabilly, glam, punk...pre and post...and adds the odd funky grove for good measure. Arguably the best thing the band’s ever done (which ain’t bad going when you’re 35 years into your ‘career’) it packs more into a single song than most bands manage in an entire album. The contrast between Fliss’s deceptively sweet vocals and Lloyd’s gruff delivery, coupled with the sudden changes in pace from full on rock to gently trippy Merry Go Round breaks is a little like being punched in the guts one second then caressed with a feather the next. If you only ever listen to one track from The Nightingales make it this one. 

Later in the set Bullet For Gove cemented the band’s commitment to confrontation (calling your last but one album For Fuck’s Sake kind of gives the game away too) with drummer Fliss pounding her kit into submission and Lloyd half crooning half howling out the words flanked by Alan and Andreas (lead guitar and bass respectively) on groove duties. Don’t expect to hear this track played on Radio 2 anytime soon...more’s the pity.

Keep up to date with future Sunday Xpress events right here

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sunday Xpress...XTRA XTRA!

I’m sworn to secrecy right now but trust me on this one, get yourselves down to this week’s Sunday Xpress (June 28th at The Edge, Cheapside, Digbeth). On top of the traditional open mic magic (kicking off around 4.00-ish) The Nature Centre and The Courtesy Group are playing (hell, that's enough of a reason to come down already) plus an EXTRA SPECIAL HOLD THE FRONT PAGE COOL AS LIQUID NITROGEN LEGENDARY HEADLINER. An official announcement is due out on the Sunday Xpress Facebook page on Saturday night...

PS: Did I mention that all of this was FREE too? Ruddy FREE!    

Trans-Mutes-ation - Mutes back with brand new full band EP

Originally a one man (James Brown) project Mutes has beefed up considerably recently and they’re now a mighty four piece. There’s still that dreamy Mutes sound at the heart of most of the tracks on brand new EP, Starvation Age, but there’s more of a post punky feel to the title track that’s genetically engineered to go down a storm live.  At the opposite end of the spectrum you’ve got the delightfully named Kissing Trees, whose Durutti Column meets Eno’s Another Green World vibe is the sonic equivalent of a hug on a picnic blanket on a warm summer’s afternoon. Blissful.

Starvation Age is available on limited edition – just 50 copies – cassette via One Note Forever right here and you can catch the band L to the I to the V to the E at The Flapper this Friday June 26th for a mere £3.   

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Come jazz you are...

Festival Director Mr Jim Simpson and some happy volunteers

Calling all jazz and blues fans or anyone just interested in being part of one the biggest free festivals of its kind in the WORLD (quite possibly the universe too...although Sun Ra runs a pretty big bash on Saturn). Birmingham Jazz and Blues Festival is looking for volunteers to distribute programmes and help out at this year’s event. Great experience for the old CV and the chance to catch some ruddy splendid live music too. Contact admin@bigbearmusic.com for more details.

PS: Check out the programme for yourself right here too! 

Get yourself connected...

Take the lead singer of one of the most vibrant and exciting bands around (Miss Halliwell’s Miles Perhower) add a bunch of dudes and dudettes who attend the Cerebral Palsy Midlands Community Centre and let them loose on some instruments and you get the kind of glorious joyful free form music that practically makes your speakers beam. Here’s the latest offering from The CPM Connection, shades of Sun Ra Arkestra meets The Fall... 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Duran Duran - Pressure Off

Duran Duran have reunited with Nile Rodgers for new single Pressure Off, a  Notorious-ish slice of funky pop that'll have you dancing like it's 1986. There's a new album due out in September (Paper Gods) and on top of some festival dates they're touring the enormodomes of the US and UK too.

If anyone would like me to send me over on an all expenses paid champagne fuelled jolly to review their Vegas date I'd be only too happy to oblige...failing that tea at Spoonies and the Genting Arena will do...I'm not fussy.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Jazz you like it...

Attended the launch party for the 31st Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival (July 3rd - 12th) last night and caught these dudes, The Rumblestrutters, playing a couple of great sets of Memphis jazz, hokum and blues. The harmonica player must have an extra mouth and the lung capacity of an airship to play this track. Impressive stuff and a ruddy lovely bunch of people too. They're back on the opening day of the festival (Friday July 3rd), check out the programme for details. 

This year the festival dishes up an incredible 175 performances across the City over 10 days, many of which are completely and utterly 100% FREE. There’s the usual mix of new and established talent from here in the UK and overseas with Spencer Davis Group drummer Pete Yorke popping back to Brum from his current home in Munich and one of the hits of 2014’s festival Pepper and the Jellies returning from Italy. Eccellente! There's also something of a festival within a festival paying tribute to Billie Holiday (this year's the centenary of her birth) with a series of gigs, film showings and other good stuff taking place during the second week. 

Keep an eye (and ear...hell...both of 'em in fact) open for award winning French vocalist Sarah Lenka who'll be singing the songs of Lady Day in SIX...that's half a dozen in old money...shows between July 10th and 12th. 

Here's a video of the legend herself in full flow too...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Do believe the hype...

Okay...this is big...capital letter BIG. Hell, capital letter and bold typeface BIG. Public Enemy has just been confirmed as the new Friday night headliners for Mostly Jazz Funk and Soul! If you know anything about the history of rap and hip hop you’ll know this is a big deal, if you don’t...well, trust me...it’s a big deal. Arguably one of the most important groups of the past 30 years Public Enemy released a quartet of era defining albums and singles in the late 80s and early 90s including some of hip hops greatest hits. Here’s a quick history lesson:  

Of course Public Enemy is just one of a bucketload of other great acts playing MoJaFuSo this year, here's the full line up! 

Impressive eh? Got a feeling this one might sell out now so grab a ticket right here while you still can. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

The lowdown on Highbury Studio...

We don't seem to be too good at preserving our heritage in Birmingham do we eh? Back in the 50s and 60s the 'town planners' oversaw the destruction of dozens of beautiful buildings, replacing them with grim brutalist structures. And what happens once these begin to develop a certain bleak charm and historical importance...yep...they're demolished to make way for yet another flat pack office block (see the 'old' library for instance). Then there's The Crown, home to some of Black Sabbath's early gigs, which was hailed as Birmingham's equivalent of The Cavern Club. It's currently boarded up and will probably be knocked down or turned into flats or a mobile phone shop or even more ruddy offices.

Now it appears as though Highbury Studio where Duran Duran recorded some of their earliest demos faces an uncertain future too. Thankfully they've just launched one of those Pledge Music thingies offering everything from an exclusive double album featuring some of Brum's best new bands through to a karaoke evening where the studio will lay on a group to sing up to 12 of your favourite tracks that are then professionally filmed and recorded for you and 16 friends. For Duran Duran fans there's also a rare as hens teeth chance to hear the early demos (including a version of The Chauffeur...I've never been the same after watching that video) that have never...and will never...leave the studios (Duran Duran have personally given their permission for these tracks to be played, bless 'em).

You can see the full list of pledge goodies right here!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Lunar Festival, Tanworth in Arden, 5th – 7th June 2015

Italian horror movie soundtracks, Malian desert blues and arguably the best songbook in pop music history, this year’s Lunar festival had something for everyone under the sun...or moon for that matter...even Smurfs  Speaking of celestial bodies, given that just 48 hours before this year’s Lunar began we were in the grip of the kind of weather you’d normally expect in November the sudden appearance of the sun was the kind of miracle that would normally get people erecting shrines and speaking in tongues. Who knows maybe day one’s headliners Tinariwen brought it with them? Friday afternoon offered a lot more than just an instant suntan though with self professed “grumpy rock ‘n’ roll band from the West Midlands” Hoopla Blue’s Wild Beasts go surf rock sonics (check out the fabulous Holy Ghost), The Drink serving up a cocktail of hi-life, indie pop, post punk and psych folk and Welsh wonders Zervas & Pepper’s blissful rebooting of 60s good time vibes courtesy of the gorgeous We Are One. Kudos to them for doing a Drake number too (Lunar Festival is, in part, a homage to Nick) delicately embellishing Pink Moon with their own hip hippy stylings.

Allah-Las kept the summertime 60s spirit going, recalling Love at their slightly tripped out best, all of which made the next band something of a shock. 

Trading under the unwieldy name of Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin (apparently there are various version of the original Goblin band operating right now) they’re responsible for some of horror’s greatest hits as the go to guys for George Romero (they scored 1978’s zombie masterpiece Dawn of the Dead) and the influential Italian director Dario Argento. It may have been a warm and sunny evening but playing against a backdrop of clips from the films genuinely sent spines tingling all over the place. Fusing prog rock, early synth sounds and...well...the very spirit of Beelzebub himself, this four piece were, for many, the hit / discovery of the festival (okay, so they’ve been around for 40 years but come on, horror movie soundtracks are a little niche eh?).  

Also nudging close to their 40th anniversary is The Fall, although like Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin only one original member remains and Mark E. Smith is more ‘original’ than most. If you’ve seen Smith before you’ll know what to expect. Looking like someone’s drunk and pasty faced uncle at a wedding he wanders around the stage shouting lyrics that perhaps only he understands into a couple of mics. Sounds crap right? Somehow though, inexplicably perhaps, it just works. Maybe it’s the fact that Smith surrounds himself with great musicians (he’s notorious for sacking entire line-ups if they fail to make the grade...or just piss him off for some reason) and the current incarnation of The Fall is no exception with classic track Theme From Sparta FC given a particularly lively reboot this evening.

It was left to Tinariwen to soothe frazzled hearts and minds as the temperature dipped perilously close to the kind of chilly Saharan nights that helped birth the band back in the 70s. It’s blues, but not as we know it, the familiar licks given an interpretation that’s both as fresh as the breeze and perhaps as old as mankind’s earliest forays into music. 

Shut your eyes and you could have been deep in the heart of the desert and, as the traditional Lunar Festival campfire got going, it really was a pretty magical end to day one (for those with the stamina and the moves there were club nights on all three days too which went on until the wee small hours...brave souls).

Day two and Plank said it loud, they’re Kraut(rock) and proud, kicking things off with some marvellous moments of majestic motorik magic. Try saying that after a pint or two of Addlestones Cider. Kudos to Plank’s drummer for putting in 110% too, the dude barely stopped for breath. Compère for the day, Mark Radcliffe, made his first appearance to introduce Jane Weaver, lamenting the lack of beautiful young ladies into space rock when he were a lad. Whether Ms Weaver would have fallen for his charms in the 70s (or right now for that matter) we’ll never know. What’s certain though is that Weaver’s shimmering otherworldly synth pop went down well with the crowd, especially the falsetto vocal on Don’t Take My Soul. 

Strangely seductive and a little creepy at the same time. Hmmm...maybe she should hook up with Goblin? Next up Syd Arthur fused jazz with prog and folk adding some impressive changes in pace and some truly fret melting guitar solos into the mix before Mark Radcliffe and his band Galleon Blast packed out the Bimble Inn (an impressively eco friendly structure) stage. 
Part stand up routine, part sea shanty overdose (their last album was called Band On The Rum...ahem) they did provide one of the anthems of the festival (and any festival for that matter) courtesy of Bloody Well Drunk, so we’ll forgive them the jokes and pirate puns.

From the ridiculous (in the best sense of the word of course) to the sublime and My Brightest Diamond, aka New York’s finest Shara Worden who’s been talked about in the same reverential tones as Sufjan Stevens (whom she’s collaborated with) and St Vincent, which is about as cool as you can get right now.  

Pressure, a standout track from an equally compelling set, mashed in yer face military style drumming with ethereal vocals and a climatic chorus that Bassey herself would Shirley approve of. Possessing a stunning vocal range, from Nico-ish depths to angelic highs, and the ability to play a mean axe (plus keyboards and, no doubt, anything else she puts her mind to) she was arguably one of the weekend’s more interesting propositions. Bush (Kate that is...not the 90s rockers) and Bjork fans should be all over her.

After a potential star of the future to a band that should arguably have been much bigger back in the day, The Pretty Things. Now rightly hailed as one of the originators of the concept album, courtesy of S.F. Sorrow, they had their roots in the same fertile environment that birthed The Rolling Stones, in fact Pretty Thing Dick Taylor was even in an early line up being replaced by Bill Wyman after he decided to pack it in and go to art school instead. Oops. Meeting up with singer Phil May he formed The Pretty Things in 1963 and a mere 52 years later voila, here they are at Lunar Festival. 

The set’s a whirlwind tour through the band’s history from the distinctly Stones-ish Honey I Need through to one of the greatest slices of psych rock ever via 1965’s Alexander (which bizarrely was used in a long forgotten Norman Wisdom film, What’s Good For The Goose). It still sounds great half a century on as does the aforementioned S.F. Sorrow Was Born and it’s no surprise to learn that is was being recorded at Abbey Road at the same time as The Beatles were laying down Sergeant Pepper. The set reached its peak with a couple of impressive solos from Taylor and Jack Greenwood on guitar and drums respectively during Mona, the latter an outrageous affair that seemed to go on as long as some band’s entire slots justifiably drawing some huge whoops of appreciation from the crowd. Pretty impressive all round.

Next up a guitarist whose recent return to good health has been Lazarus like. By rights Wilko Johnson should have been pushing up the daisies by now but here he is, machine gunning his way across the stage, eyes popping out of his head and playing the punk inspiring R‘n’B that made his name with the legendary Dr Feelgood. 

Backed by ace of bass Norman Watt-Roy and drummer Dylan Howe he blazed through Down By The Jetty, She Does It Right and Bye Bye Johnny like a man reborn, even playing guitar behind his head on the last tune for good measure.

That just left Public Service Broadcasting to close down proceedings on the main stage. Splicing clips from old movies, documentaries and public service information films with art rock soundscapes PSB’s aim is to “teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future”. Nothing too ambitious there then eh? With a couple of albums behind them now there are plenty of tracks that seen to do just that, from the bombastic Kraut rock (or maybe that should be Tommy rock?!) of Spitfire through to the dance funk of Gargarin and the more transcendent Everest (by this stage in the evening it was suitably chilly too). The sampled voice ‘improvisations’ may be pre planned but they’re still fun with every Lunar Festival shout out getting a cheer and a ‘mistaken’ mention of London getting a pantomime boo. 

Day three and as the campers gently defrosted in the blazing sun with some Ska Aerobics and Morris Dancing to shake off any lingering hangovers Whispering Knights came across as Radiohead goes folk on the fine Rolled On By paving the way for one of the Midlands best bands right now, Midnight Bonfires. There’s something about their mix of influences that really works with a little light tropicalia, some indie rock and a lead singer who makes Canned Heat’s Alan Wilson (the dude who sang On The Road Again) sound like a baritone. If you can find a better Sunday summer afternoon tune than Lights Out I’d like to hear it. 

Right, guest reviewer time for a band that was drafted in at the last minute to fill the slot vacated by the poorly Zun Zun Egui, Föllakzoid. Over to the lovely Mr John Kennedy: “Chilean chilled, brain-washers on a mission, Föllakazoid, wear their retro Space/Psych-Rock drone warrior badges with pride (think - alien spermatozoa off-springs suckled on the rocket-fuel teat-nozzles of Hawkwind, Wooden Shjips et al). Their beat-looped grooves filled the sun-soaked main arena with gushings of Acid balmed abandon. Hypnotic atonal guitar chocka-chocka riffs and solar wind moody-Moog whispers were default setting for a highly regarded and much praised set. With controls locked on firmly for the heart of the Sun they closed with a frothily freak-out extemporised take on the Paranoid riff. All hail then, New World usurpers, Föllakzoid, battery-acid ear wash master blasters of the New World disorder.” I literally couldn’t have put it better myself…

Are the members of Radiophonic Workshop Daft Punk’s granddads? Discuss. On top of winning the award for most bits of kit on stage at any one time they seem to have invented that cool electro funk sound a full 30 years beforehand, doing it all with nothing more complex than a reel to reel tape machine, a metal coat hanger and some sticky backed plastic. Incredible.  This afternoon Wireless in particular hit an incredibly funky note, if a ‘new’ band came out with that you’d have the hipsters wetting themselves. Of course what everyone wanted to hear though was THAT theme tune. The music from Dr Who still seems futuristic, even if it clearly requires more keyboards than a call centre to play live, and surely every grown man in his 40s instantly regressed to a small boy as that distinctive “woooh woooh” sound rang out. Extermi-great.

Keeping the synth flag flying Sylvan Esso’s jazzy electropop was an unexpected treat with lead singer Amelia Meath busting some particularly impressive contemporary dance moves. Check out set highlight and recent single H.S.K.T for one of the most addictive tracks around right now.

Like The Fall on Friday you either love or loathe Julian Cope and his between song ramblings clearly did little to convince the non believers. “I spend most of the time in a mystical state…” he mused early on in a set that still managed to contain some genuine leftfield pop gems in Double Vegetation, The Greatest And Perfection Of Love and the Syd Barrett-ish Sunspots. 

You got the feeling that he would have happily stayed up there all night chatting away if they’d have let him.

After a quick blast of Robyn Hitchcock, unbelievably relegated to the Bimble Inn rather than the main stage, and his gently moving cover of Drake’s Riverman and his own typically oddball My Wife and My Dead Wife there was just time for some much needed nosh (some pretty decent grub on offer too) before Sun Ra Arkestra beamed down from whichever planet they live on. Sun Ra himself may have departed for another galaxy but the band’s in safe hands under saxophonist Marshall Allen’s leadership. For an hour or so the Arkestra freaked out the wildlife with some of the finest skronk jazz this side of Mars. At times it may sound like half a dozen instruments having a scrap in a back alley but I guess that’s kind of the point. This is music that challenges almost as much as it entertains and as Sun Ra himself put a match to conventions back in the 50s it was only right that Allen should lead the procession across the site, carrying the torch…both metaphorically and literally…to light the traditional Lunar festival effigy.

As the embers burned down to the ground The Bootleg Beatles pitched up. Okay, so they’re a tribute act which might send the musos running for the hills but when it’s all done this well AND you’ve got arguably the best catalogue of songs ever written by a single band, who the hell cares? To be fair most of the crowd got the point, singing their hearts out from Daytripper right through to the band’s later period classics that made up the bulk of the set. Taxman, Lucy In The Sky, I Am The Walrus, Come Together, Get Back, Let It Be…there was even time for a sublime While My Guitar Gently Weeps from George and a sweet With A Little Help From My Friends from Ringo. 

Shut your eyes or squint a bit and it could almost be the real thing up there, the current Lennon’s particularly good, not just vocally but with the odd witty aside too keeping the original spirit of the man alive. It was left up to Paul to close the show though and could there be a much better climax to the festival than a sing-along Hey Jude? Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah…

All photos courtesy and copyright of the lovely Richard Shakespeare aka Shakeypix.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Young Fathers / Kojey Radical @ The Hare and Hounds, Wednesday 3rd June 2015

From winning both the Mercury Prize and the Scottish Album of the Year Awards in 2014 (for Dead and Tape Two respectively) through to earning the kind of gushing praise that’s normally reserved for visiting deities Edinburgh’s Young Fathers seemingly came from nowhere. They’ve actually been a going concern since hooking up at an under 16s hip hop night in 2008 though, fusing three distinctly different backgrounds (Liberia via Ghana, Maryland and Drylaw, apparently a suburb on the outskirts of Edinburgh...who says the internet ain’t educational eh?) to create something that’s undeniably different. And at this stage in musical evolution development that’s a pretty rare thing indeed.

First up though Kojey Radical, artist, poet, musician...he probably knocks up a mean lemon drizzle cake too. Joined this evening by Jude (who had one of those weird Talk Box devices that makes it sound like his guitar is talking, all without the aid of mind altering drugs too...cool) Kojey’s an accomplished wordsmith with the kind of natural easy going charm that soon had the audience doing the old call and response thing with unusual enthusiasm. Citing Shakespeare, Sigmund Freud and quite possibly Karl Marx (in one track he posits the thought that it’s actually love that’s the opium of the people as opposed to religion if only eh?) as influences and inspiration fine lines spilled out relentlessly with pick of the set being an emotional Preacher Preacher, railing against religion’s habit of taking money from its flock in exchange for spiritual salvation (something which seemed to have hit his own family and mother in particular) and the Hamlet inspired Ophelia. So, to see or not to see: that is the question. That’s a simple one to answer, this particular Radical's well worth catching.

With the room packed and gently steaming the trio of Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and “G” Hastings suddenly appeared as drummer Steven Morrison began beating the bejesus out of his kit (something that, impressively, he continued doing for much of the set in fact). From the outset the music’s a mix of all sorts, reflecting both the diverse backgrounds of the band and quite possibly the unfettered access to music that we all pretty much take for granted these days. Reviewers have done their brains in trying to sum up what Young Fathers are. They’ve been called rap but not rap, leftfield hip hop and dark gospel...all true in their own way and yet still wide of the mark. Take the Queen Is Dead for instance. Huddled round a single mic, arms round each other, it’s like someone’s lit the blue touch paper on a bomb as the menacing beats and stream of consciousness lyrics explode into apache whoops, discordant synths and furious drumming. 

Adam Ant meets Aphex Twin meets Public Enemy via Gil Scott Heron? Who the hell knows, but who cares when it sounds this great though. It’s a mix that reaches its peak on the band's breakthrough single Get Up, quite possibly the most twisted party anthem in history. 

At times it's almost like three different bands playing all at once, a dizzying Molotov cocktail of words, music and sounds that really shouldn’t work but somehow just does.

If the mix of influences is impressive then the sheer energy of a Young Fathers show will blow your socks off...even if you ain’t wearing any. Having three frontmen gives each one the chance to step up and go three shades of bonkers, then catch their breath before plunging back into things. Alloysious and Kayus are particularly boisterous to put it mildly, whilst “G” has a bit of an Ian Curtis thousand yard stare thing going on. Fiddling about with various knobs he also produces the kind of other worldly sounds last heard on 60s sci fi, Dr Who meets Dr Dre with just a dash of TV On The Radio for good measure. Shame, introduced by “G” (one of the few times any of the band spoke) with a slightly menacing “Can ye dance?” in particular tested the sonic boundaries and if the dog population of Kings Heath suddenly started throwing shapes around 10pm on Wednesday night then you’ll know why.   

The set ended with Massaquoi doing some kind of beautiful, weird contemporary dance that, aping the music, seemed to blend everything from body popping to ballet and then they were gone. No fake encore bullshit, no shout outs pushing the merch and no endless posing for selfies with the fans.

Whether all of this energy, creativity and dedication to the road (they played an impressive 140 gigs last year) will last or where they take things from here remains to be seen. For now though, well, quite frankly they’re the daddies.  

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The SUN and the moon...heatwave set for Lunar Festival!

News hot off the press (well from that woman on Breakfast TV) this weekend's Lunar Festival (voted one of the best festivals of the year in 2014 by The Guardian) is set to be scorchio! Hotter than Spain apparently...

Just imagine, in a few days time you could be sitting in the sun in the glorious countryside sipping a cider or two and watching The Fall, Julian Cope, Public Service Broadcasting, The Bootleg Beatles, Wilko Johnson, Tinariwen, Sun Ra Arkestra, Robyn Hitchcock, The Pretty Things, Zun Zun Egui, Syd Arthur and oodles more great bands.

Sure as hell beats a shopping trip to IKEA or a night watching Celebrity Ninja Warriors on ice eh?

Tickets for the whole weekend are still currently available for just £89 including camping and guaranteed sunshine...for the three whole days...trust me on this one.

PS: Review of 2014's event with pretty pictures right here.

Monday, June 01, 2015

KIOKO - Deadly Roots

Powerful debut video from the wonderful KIOKO to accompany their equally strong track Deadly Roots. Nice to see/hear a band addressing some important issues for a change. Granted things are so much better than they were back in the 70s when groups like Steel Pulse and UB40 (arguably KIOKO's spiritual granddads) first started doing their stuff but we all need to be mindful of issues of race, religion, sexuality and the hundreds of other things that make us all both unique and, simultaneously (when you think about it really), the same.

In the 45 years that I've been on planet earth the Country and especially the City I call home has changed beyond belief but it's heartening to see that, by and large, we all seem to get along pretty well. Perhaps that's why so many bands have drifted away from the more political or social kind of material? Is there much left to protest about? Or the appetite to do so? As a middle aged white bloke it's pretty hard to tell, although if I'd been landed with a £30,000 debt after doing a degree, forced to take a zero hours contract job and then told I couldn't get a mortgage until I'd saved £50,000 I'd be pretty pissed...