Friday, July 03, 2015

Music, music everywhere...

On top of basking in some of the most un-British weather we've seen for a decade or so there's a positive cornucopia of FREE music this weekend in and around Brum. Starting today is the 31st Birmingham Jazz and Blues Festival which will see more than 40 different acts play around 175 performances (most of which are completely FREE) over the next ten days. Check out the programme right here!

Then on Sunday there's the annual Warley Woods Picnic in the Park hosted by 6 Music's very own Stuart Maconie. If The Strumtroopers (see what they did there?) version of Get Lucky doesn't get you shaking whatever it is that you've got to shake then you're quite possibly clinically dead. Times and info right here.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. I know that Fierce Festival has drag psycho CHRISTEENE playing at Minerva Works tonight, then there's The Dollcanoes over at CoCoMad in Cotteridge Park tomorrow. Who knows, trawl Facebook and you'll probably find Prince playing an impromptu set outside Mr Egg...

Whatever you're doing, eat, drink and be messy.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Mostly Jazz Funk and Soul...mostly SOLD OUT!

Hot news from the good folk at Mostly Jazz Funk and Soul, ALL weekend and Saturday only tickets have now SOLD OUT and the last few Friday only and Sunday only tickets are being snapped up faster than you can say Cymande.

Buy today or wave bye bye to one of the funkiest weekends of the year...

Tickets here...for now at least.

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 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 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...