Sunday, September 30, 2007

Going Deaf For a Fortnight if you think you're hard enough...

Some months ago I foolishly invoked the name of Going Deaf for a Fortnight when I went to four gigs in a row. GDFAF is, for the uninitiated, a 14 day period of time during which you try to go to as many gigs as you can, then post a decent review on your blog (ideally within 24hours). It was invented by blogtopus Pete Ashton in 2005, who you can find here, here, here and quite possibly here...(okay that's only 5 blogs not 8, but blogtopus sounds kind of neat). Anyway, my invocation was quite rightly picked up by Russ L, who, sensible chap that he no doubt is, can just be found here. After assuming Pete's mantle in 2006 he challenged me to go deaf for a fortnight this year and I made some lame ass excuse that 'i'd think about it'. I have... and will probably merely go deaf for a few days here and there (which ain't really the idea). The point of all this? Well, as GDFAF starts soon (6th October) I just wanted to wish all those involved the very best. I think Pete is doing it (?), I know Russ L is and I sincerely hope there's more out there. Even if you, like me, just make it out to a few more gigs than normal, then it's a bloody good thing. Here, for anyone considering it, are a few tips for the fortnight in question...

Saturday 6th - Oxjam Event (including The Gravity Crisis / Untitled Musical Project / The Bourgois Four / Swampmeat) @ The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham

Sunday 7th - Heavy Trash @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath

Monday 8th - Thomas Dolby @ Academy 2, Birmingham

Tuesday 9th - Foals @ The Barfly, Digbeth

Friday 12th - Kamikaze! @ The Rainbow, Digbeth (4 local bands, £4...including The Others...yes...The Others!)

Tuesday 16th - The Rumble Strips @ Academy 2, Birmingham

Wednesday 17th - Palladium (hey, it's pop...I like pop) @ Bar Academy, Birmingham

Wednesday 17th - oooh a clash...Unsane / Beestung Lips @ The Medicine Bar, Digbeth...not fair Beestung lips win hands down on their own...'cos they're ace.

Friday 19th - Kamikaze! @ The Rainbow, Digbeth (4 local bands...once again £4)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Peeping at the NME

Well, it's that time again. The annual NME student guide (yes I know I keep slagging it off and yes I know it's £2.10 a week, but I've kind of got into the habit over the last 20 odd years). It's always interesting to see what people rate as being the best - musically speaking - that the city can offer and this year is a pretty fair reflection, helped no end by Mazzy's (Chicks Dig Jerks) piece. Venue wise we have the Sunflower Lounge, Academy (hmmm...Academy 2 and Bar Academy may be...but not the great hole in the ground itself), Factory Club (which is the new name for the Medicine Bar!?) and The Rainbow. No mention of The Barfly or Flapper...both of which should be student heaven. Misty's get a mention in the Pick Of The Local Bands bit along with Shady Bard, Murdoch and the Big Bang. No Beestung Lips! Criminal. Mazzy adds Johnny Foreigner to the list (good choice). Obviously I'm a bit gutted that Hot Spunk didn't make it, but there you go. You can't have everything. The number one thing to do in your first year here? See Stine Richard. He's a new name to me but it seems as though he's Birmingham's answer to Jacko. A student at Birmingham Uni he's just released a tune entitled Rock With You together with its very own (slightly strange) video. He is, according to the NME guide, a "musical genius and comedy legend". He doesn't seem to play many gigs at the moment though. Promoters...over to you.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dexys Midnight Rumbles

Well. It's out at last. The Rumble Strips album finally oozed into the shops last week. Having first seen the band early last year it seems pretty incredible that it's taken so long to get released, particularly given that many of the songs on it seem to have been around for a while. I guess there's been all kinds of label bullshit to get through. Shame. For what it's worth I think the band would've had far more chance of 'making it' if the album had been released last year. Still, here's hoping that the great British public pick up on a great band and album that gives more than a nodding wink to the classic Searching For The Young Soul Rebels era Dexys. I've not purchased it yet, mainly 'cos I've got some of the tracks from single releases, covermounted freebie CD's...etc. It's retailing at a none unreasonable £8.00 in HMV, not unreasonable by the standards of 1999 that is. It's hard to imagine too many folk forking out £8.00 for a CD these days. Richard Branson obviously feels the same way as he's just sold his remaining Virgin music stores to 'der management' who are changing the name to Zavvi. That'll help eh? Just slap a new name on the front of the shops and the public will forget all about downloading stuff. With Fopp, Music Zone and MVC all dead and buried...and Zavvi destined to follow (sorry fellas), HMV will soon be the only national music retailer left (and that's losing money faster than Northern Rock can give it away...125% mortgages anyone...not got a you're a convicted armed robber with a crack worries...step right in...the tax payer's got it covered...). Sad.

Anyway, I digress. The Rumble Strips. Great band. Go listen and, thanks to the miracle of You Tube, go watch via the video thingy at the left of this gibberish.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Blood Red Shoes / The Ghost Of A Thousand Birmingham Bar Academy Wednesday 19th September 2007

In a break with gig going tradition, and after the shockingly bad pints of Grolsch (which tasted like someone had jizzed in it) and Blackthorn (which someone had jizzed in) on Tuesday night (oh what the hell...who needs a liver?) I decided to demolish the small bottles of 'red' wine that the Bar Academy has had sitting there gathering dust for months. £2.90 each they may be, but at least they don't taste of jizz...
This has bugger all to do with the music but it does once again raise the question of why some venues find it so bloody hard to serve fairly priced beverages that don't taste of jizz. There. That's got that off my chest, now if only I could find a way to get the taste out of my mouth. One taste I don't need to get out of my mouth (seamless eh? chuffing seamless) is that of hardcore Brightonians The Ghost of a Thousand. I'm fairly sure that most of the assembled teens waiting for Blood Red Shoes weren't expecting a fist full of Gallows up their rectums, but that's pretty much what they got (minus the actual fists up actual rectums). As I've written before, and quite how it's happened, I find myself liking hardcore punk more and more. Perhaps 'cos I'm changing from a slightly angry young man to a totally pissed off old bastard. But there's something about pounding drums, driving guitars and some bloke screaming out his vital organs that just makes me feel good. TGOAT, whilst less scary than Gallows, still get the old blood pumping and lead singer Tom spilt more sweat than a fat man crossing the road in Vegas (and that's a lot of sweat).

Headliners Blood Red Shoes are destined for great things. Ignore the lazy 'reverse White Stripes' comments, BRS are more rrrrrrriot girl meets cute boy next door...they fall in love, spend nights eating chips on Brighton Pier and drinking luke warm Asti Spumanti in the rain whilst plotting their first big stadium show. Or something like that. They're a ball swellingly cute couple. Something for the boys (and boy, were there a few of them there at the front professing undying love for lead shoe Laura) and girls (in the form of the slightly angelic looking Steven). Yes I know looks shouldn't matter, but in this fickle world of 'pop' it still does. It helps no end that the music - a large gob of punk, a dash of indie and a hint of rock - is ace too. It's Getting Boring By The Sea (complete with Guns N' Roses style guitar noise that kicks off Paradise City and naggingly catchy upwards inflection at the end of every line of every verse) must be up there as a possible Hearing Aid Single of the Year (I keep inventing these awards, have you noticed?). Judging by the sizeable crowd, the furious moshing and a stash of instantly memorable tunes these Shoes (I'll warn you now...this is going to hurt) are set to run and run (told you...sometimes I just can't help ending reviews with piss poor Metro News / NME style endings...think of it as some form of ironic comment on the state of the mainstream media...or just me being an annoying tosser).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

PTV3 Birmingham Academy 2 Tuesday 18th September 2007

You missed a treat Birmingham. Artist, inventor of industrial music, founder member of Throbbing Gristle, key player in the birth of of Acid House and general legend Mr Genesis P-Orridge and his new-ish line up of Psychic TV played to no more than about 40 people in what was, admittedly, a criminally underpromoted gig (the tickets only seemed to come on sale three weeks ago with no publicity whatsoever). It's late, I'm still kind of on Vegas time and I'm liable to ramble (never a good thing on a 'school' night) suffice to say that the whole experience was like watching a strange but hauntingly brilliant work of art come to life and mess with your mind, body and soul. Genius...sheer genius.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Postcard from the veg..

Jet lag is great really. Kind of like being on drugs but without the needles, death and stuff. I'm still drifting slightly between this world and the next. As the kind of chap that needs a good 8 hours of sleep, going for 30 hours or so (I can't really work it out yet) without any shuteye has a pretty profound impat...make that impact...see what I mean...on my ability to string a sentance together. Anyway, I won't bore you with a long rambling account of 'wot I did on my holidays', suffice to say that I can heartily recommend both San Francisco and Las Vegas to anyone with a pulse. San Francisco has a really cool vibe although, as I feared, Haight Ashbury just didn't feel right to me especially after being accosted by dozens of pan handlers who got pretty abusive when I failed to give them money. The scary bum in Golden gate park who kept shouting at me to 'suck his cock' didn't help. Other than that (of course you get 'bums' everywhere) the people were really friendly, there are great bars everywhere (especially in the Italian quarter) and there's a ton of stuff to do. We barely scratched the surface in 5 days. One of the many highlights was a gig at Slims featuring oddball actor Billy Bob Thornton who performed a set of 'hillbilly' music wearing an Austin Powers style outfit in the first half (see picture below) then came back on in a black vest and jeans for his country stuff. It was all rather bizarre, but enjoyable at the same time. Like watching a kitten perform brain surgery (see, that's jet lag for you).

Vegas has to be the best and worst place on earth. It really is as mental as it looks. Perhaps the strangest of all was the Freemont Street Experience. Situated 'downtown' (the arse end of 'new' Vegas in many ways) it's a kind of a graveyard for all of the old neon signs that we associate with the days of Frank and co. Basically most of the old casino's were demolished years ago, they saved the neon signs though and have stuck them all over a mall in Freemont street. Above this mall is a giant screen thingy that carries a music and light show during the evening (see the pretty picture above). Freemont Street is full of people on those electric buggies whose legs have given way under the weight of several stone of blubber (I saw a whole family reduced to this state) plus hundreds of irritating tourists like me who insist on photographing every sign from every angle. Uptown Vegas is a homage to wealth, excess and sheer stupidity. It's glorious. I discovered a great scam too. Being as tight as a duck's ass it pleased me no end. If you settle down in front of a 1cent a go slot machine a lovely waitress brings you any drink you want...for free. With a bit of luck you can make $1 (50p in real money) last you 10 minutes or so, sometimes enough for two freebies. Now that's my kind of gambling. The house loses. Ha! Probably the best bit of all though was Love, the hottest Cirque Du Soleil show of the moment at The Mirage. Setting an acrobatic show to the music of The Beatles could go either way, unbearably naff or incredibly brilliant. The fact that it hit the latter of these two options may have been down to the pint of cocktails that we were drinking at the time, but even in the cold light of day I'm pretty sure that the show was mind blowingly good. There are bodies flying all over the shop, really clever uses of sound and video clips of the fab four in action and speakers in every seat for that full 'surround sound' experience. Words would never do it justice, but ultimately it reminds you of just how good and unique the music of the Beatles was and still is (for the record I'm not a Beatles nut either). So, that's that. Back to life, back to reality as Jazzie B once so wisely put it. Perhaps not so wisely I've lined up three gigs this week beginning with PTV3 (after waiting 20 years or so to see Mr P-Orridge I get to see him twice in a less than 12 months...oh deep joy!). Hopefully Morpheus can do his bit tonight (he's something to do with sleep I think) and all will be well in my brain by then. On second thoughts watching PTV3 in a altered state might be quite good fun...

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Er...I'm back. San Francisco and Vegas were great. I am knackered. 18hours in a plane and several time zones will do that I guess. Only caught one gig in the end (Billy Bob Thornton - yes, that Billy Bob Thornton) , plus Love in Vegas (the Cirque doodah thing)...will write more when sleep I have the meantime here's a picture of Billy Bob.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


That's it. I'm off. Holiday time at last. Hoping to catch a few gigs in San Fran and Vegas in between eating my own bodyweight in dead cattle and crustaceans, downing liquor and squandering at least $5 on the 'craps' tables. I can honestly say I have no idea what a 'craps' table is and don't really want to know until I get there. Then I will stride up purposefully with as much bluster as I can summon up and ask for $5 worth of crap that I will gamble on more 'crap'. And I will win. And I will build a house of 'crap', with 'crap' furniture and a 'crap' pool. I will drive a 'crap' car, get a 'crap' dog and dress from head to foot in 'crap'. In fact...I will become the king of 'crap'. change there then.

See you on the other side.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Brite Lights / Prospect Lane / The Policy / Guile The Rainbow Digbeth Friday 31st August 2007

Thanks to some last minute changes to my 'hectic' 'social' 'life' I managed to fit in a third visit to Kamikaze!'s Club 444. Judging by the healthy crowds it's all going rather well and the vibe seems a lot more positive than some of the local music nights I've been to over the years. Tonight was kicked off by Guile, a fairly new band (just over year old) from sunny Cannock (they have a 'Chase' there I believe...nope, I have no idea either) with a cool line in Doors-y stoner rock. When they hit their stride on tracks like How Long it all comes together really well. A tad nervous at first they seemed to relax more as the gig went on. As they're gigging like bastards over the next few months I can only see them getting stronger. Whilst Guile hid their musical light under a bushel a little, The Policy had no such fear. Despite the fact that the lead singer looked like he'd just come straight from work (I'm sure he had his work suit on) he put on the most energetic performance of the night. The Policy reminded me a little of some of the bands that were around in the late 80's (Cutting Crew springs to mind). A bit of synth, choppy guitars (their guitarist seemed rather good to me), keen know the kind of thing. Despite...or maybe because of the work suit...I rather enjoyed it. The proof of the pudding? At one point lead Policy (a chappie called Chris Hayden) asked the crowd if the night had been worth the £4 so far. There were a fair number of positive responses - including mine. Next up were Prospect Lane (pictured)- one of the better bands around in Birmingham at the moment in my humble opinion. Despite having a bit of a mare with technology, microphone leads, keyboards, beer bottles...they still put on a fine performance. Lady Baron fancies the lead singer it's all good. I'd probably lose the cover version though (Alice Deejay's Better Off Alone) as their own material is a hell of a lot stronger. The last track they played (Isolation) really is a cracker (ya gotta love that vocoder) and I have high hopes for them. That just left Brite Lites. As polished as you'd expect a band to be after supporting INXS in the Symphony Hall...hang on...INXS...Michael do dah...fist of fury and all that...surely he's, well, dead. Oh well. Clearly you can't keep a good man down. Anyway, the Lites have the same kind of anthemic quality that the Manics have (listen to This Town in particular)and echoes of early Stereophonics (More Life in a Tramps Vest era). Fans of either band will love 'em.

After making a concerted effort I'm starting to get much more of a feel for the 'local' music scene nowadays. There's some really good stuff out there and these nights are a much needed showcase in a decent venue. I can personally vouch for Mr Derry on 14th September and the glorious Reverie Strings on 5th October as particular highlights in the calendar.

Why the music business is like Bullseye...

I was watching Bullseye last night (the old skool version with Jim 'Super, Smashing, Great' Bowen'), just after my chicken kebab and pint of Strongbow, and just before leaving for a gig and it struck me. The music industry is a lot like Bullseye. Bear with me one point Uncle Jim looked at the camera after a couple of contestants had scored about 6 with 37 darts and said ' well, never mind, you've entertained around 12milion people'...I'll say that again ' 12 million people'. Bullseye had 12 million viewers. WTF? Nowadays a show does well to get around 3 or 4 million viewers. I guess the new version of Bullseye gets about 300. Even the soaps struggle to hit much more than 10million...7 or 8 million down on just a few years ago. Of course the reason is simple. Most of us have 30 + channels to watch, broadband to dick around with, blogs to read (or write), millions of DVD's blah blah blah. Some of us even go out once in a while. Now your average band has to compete with all of this for your attention. Most set up a My Space page. Nothing wrong with that. They get out and play, a lot of friends and family come to see them, a few oddballs like me turn up...but then what? In the past it all seemed pretty straightforward. Difficult, I'll give you that, but straightforward. You gig, an A & R man spots you...or you pester the life out of every record label around, then you get signed, Radio One plays you, you go on Top of The Pops, you snort coke off the back of Bangkok lady boys, you buy a farm in Essex and breed gerbils. Easy. But now, with millions - literally - of bands right there at the click of a mouse how the hell do you get anywhere? I've blogged on this subject quite a few times now and no one's come up with an answer (cos there isn't one). Yes of course there's still a music business, there are probably more 'independent' record labels now than ever before and a few lucky souls do make it out of the Mire Space (nothing to do with big labels hiding in the wings pulling the strings of course) but the sad fact is that 99.99% of the bands that I've seen over the last 20 years have got nowhere...and the situation seems to be getting worse. There's now so much choice and so many 'routes to market' that you stand more chance of winning the lottery than making it in a band these days. Far from liberating musicians from the slavery of big labels it strikes me that the web will actually play right into the hands of big business. All of the A&R and building up a band stuff can be done online for very little cost then Costa Coffee or Microsoft come along, sign up the artist and flog the tunes to death to ad men to soundtrack commercials for feminine hygiene products. that's why the music business is like Bullseye.