Thursday, June 30, 2011

Manda Rin Marriage Special

Whilst I don’t really know the lovely Manda Rin (ex-Bis) personally I’ve been a fan for years now and, after she very kindly replied to an email I sent her a while back, I’ve been following her blog / Twitter thing on a daily basis. She’s been through the mill a bit recently, poor luv, thanks to a bit of a disastrous eye lasering op, but she seems to be on the mend now. This weekend she gets married, which seems as good an excuse as any to pop on a few of her tracks and dance around in your pants. Congratulations Mr and Mrs Rin.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Frankmusik’s over the Rainbow...

Yep, synth tickling, social media surfing, top pop bod Frankmusik’s being lured down to t’Rainbow (13th July) in Digbeth by the lovely folk at Birmingham Promoters for one of just three intimate UK dates this year. His first album was, quite frankly (pardon the pun), one of the best pop releases of the last 10 years and if he plays Better Off As Two that’ll be worth the price of a ticket on its own. He’s working on his follow up right now (in between producing Erasure’s new one and remixing anything he can get his paws on...he's even 'done' Gaga...haven't we all dear?) so I’m guessing this gig will give us a sneaky peek at some of the fresh stuff. Don’t miss it...

Tickets from here. Get in!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fest of the week - Mostly Jazz

Well that’s Glasto over for another year...actually make that two. They’re having a year off in 2012 to allow the cows to recover from the horror that is Coldplay. If that don’t make yer milk curdle I don’t know what will. Whilst I failed to make it to Worthy Farm this year, this week I’ll be heading off to the infinitely more civilised Mostly Jazz Festival in Moseley (tickets here for a mere £77 for the whole three days). Compared to Glasto it’s as intimate as sharing a sleeping bag with the cast of Glee...only a lot more enjoyable...I imagine...never shared a sleeping bag with the cast of Glee but I'm up for it if they are. Anyway, Mostly Jazz has a cracking line up of big names (Booker T, Alice Russell, Matthew Herbert, Gilles Peterson) and lesser known treats like these dudes...The Paris 1940's...who cover all manner of tracks in a jazz stylee. Wonder what Lemmy makes of their version of The Ace Of Spades eh?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Free Friday Download...Get People Crystal Fighters remix!

Rain Tears (Crystal Fighters RMX) by GET PEOPLE

After recent tours with Metronomy, The Wombats and Crystal Fighters totally tropical top poppers London trio Get People release their brand new Rain Tears EP on July 11th. It’s a cracker too, one gorgeous slice of summer time electropop after another. To get you in the mood you can download the rather splendid Crystal Fighters’ remix of the title track for bugger all. Yep, bugger all! Ain’t life grand?

Rain Tears will be released on Friends vs Records on July 11th.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Glastonbury (and a load of other festivals) - a survivor’s guide

See point 5...avoid the toilets at any cost

Unless you’re Bear Grylls, Grizzly Adams or Seasick Steve the chances are that you, like me, spend most of your life in the relative comfort of a big brick thing with hot and cold running water, a well stocked fridge, a nice comfy bed and a wardrobe full of fresh, dry, clothes. It comes as a bit of a shock to the system then when we’re plunged into a huge muddy field together with thousands of others and left to fend for ourselves in the hostile land of the festival. Oh what horrors lie ahead. The cold. The damp. The ‘food’. The toilets. Ye gods, shield your eyes whenever you go in there. The things that come out of the human body...bleurgh. Anyway, in the spirit of helpfulness, and based on going to festivals for a fair number of years, here’s a list of things that might give you a fighting chance of survival. Good luck.

(1) Expect all sorts of weather. You’ll probably get it too. Maybe all in the space of an hour. Waterproofs, wellies and a hat are a ruddy smart is suntan lotion. Well we can all live in hope right?

(2) Food. Take some. Plenty in fact. Food at most festivals generally fits neatly into two categories. Food that sucks and costs a fortune (spinal column in a bap) or food that sucks slightly less but costs more than a two bed semi in Islington (organic spinal column in a wheatgerm ciabatta). A loaf of bread, some cheese spread in a tube, plenty of peanuts, apples and some cereal bars are all good emergency supplies.

(3) Booze. Take some. Loads. As much as you can carry. Somehow you can quite happily drink from the moment you wake up until the moment you’re carried off site with hypothermia and you don’t get anywhere near as drunk as you would do in the ‘real world’. Some festivals do their best to stop you from taking booze into the main bit of the site but short of strip searching everyone these attempts are pretty futile. Just don’t wander in with a keg of beer under one arm and a crate of chateau neuf under the other and you should be alright. On an environmental note don’t be a tool...whatever you bring onto the site take it away with you or pop it in the bin. Don’t take any glass...for obvious reasons. Wine boxes are a great idea and, if you hold down the valve and blow down the end (once you’ve drunk the contents obviously, the silver bag thingy inflates into a handy pillow. Blue Peter, Blue Schmeter.

(4) Accept the fact that you’ll only see 5% of the bands you want...especially if you go to’s bloody huge and it takes about a week to shuffle from one end to the other. In fact by the time you’ve struggled across site to watch the next big think they’ll have released a greatest hits album, split up, reformed and written a musical with Ben Elton. It might not be very rock n’roll but if you really want to see someone plan ahead.

(5) Toilet roll. If you can avoid using the loos for five days I can heartily recommend doing so. Just tie a knot/bung a cork in it and hope for the best. If you have to go, find out when the men with the big sucky thing come round and empty the festering bowls of excrement. This often happens in the early morning but it’s worth making the effort just to avoid having to hover above three foot of other people’s ‘waste’.

(6) Money. Take a fair wedge, but not your life’s savings. Don’t plan on using one of those portable ATM’s though. The queues for these can be seen from space and they’ll probably charge you £200 just to get your own money out. Oh...and they’ll run out of cash just when you get to the front. And they’ll eat your card too. Just for a laugh.

(7) Go see stuff you wouldn’t normally see. Some of the best festival gigs I’ve seen have been from bands I’ve never heard of before...or since. At Glasto for instance a dude round a campfire can often seem a hell of a lot better than most of the bloated corporate soul sucking headliners.

(8) Talk to random strangers. The stranger the better. Especially the ones with drugs. I can’t advocate taking drugs of course...oh hang on...yes I can...take drugs. Every kind of drug. You might die but then again who wants to live forever eh? Especially if Coldplay are still on stage.

(9) Get off site early. Leaving a festival is a little like trying to escape from Alcatraz. Only not as much fun. Believe it or not there are still people trying to leave from last year’s Glastonbury...

(10) Maybe this should have been point number (1) but there are some festivals out there now that (whisper it) aren’t like living in a sewer for a week. I have high hopes for the inaugural Wilderness Festival that promises hot tubs and gourmet grub and the Big Chill’s pretty pleasant too.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Off The Cuff’s gonna to get messy...

...and why the hell not eh? Off The Cuff (22nd-24th July) packs more brain splintering, hair raising, lose-yerself-in-a-pant-wettingly-awesome-moment-of-joy new music into three days than most sane people can stand. But then if you were sane you wouldn’t still be reading this would you? You’d be on, or something equally scintillating. Anywho, back to Off The Cuff, and this year they’ve landed three cracking headliners with Johnny Foreigner on Friday, DD/MM/YYYY on Saturday and Dananananaykroyd (are there enough 'ana's in there?) on Sunday. Other goodies include Tubelord, Romans, &U&I, The Computers, Victories At's all being held in the legendary Flapper too (check out their flash new website!)...oh my.

Unsurprisingly the three day weekend tickets have all gone, but if you pull your finger out (of wherever you might have it...I don't want to think about that, thank you very much) you might be able to buy some day tickets. Well...what are you waiting for?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Jim Jones Revue / Lewis Floyd Henry @ Birmingham Academy, Thursday 16th June 2011

I first bumped into Lewis Floyd Henry (almost literally) at the Big Chill Festival a couple of years back. He was just sitting by a lake playing his particular brand of fuzzed up blues/rock/punk through a battered old speaker that he wheeled around with him on some pushchair wheels. It was one of those happy festival accidents that ends up being a highlight and, watching him again tonight (still as gloriously raw and ramshackle in the more clinical surroundings of the Academy) was just as enjoyable. Perched in front of a munchkin sized set of foot operated drums he kicked off with a blistering track called Good News, channelling the spirits of ancient blues and rock greats together with a little punk spunk mixed in for good measure. Thrashing the living hell out of his guitar and battling to keep his crackly 30w speaker in check he blasted through half a dozen or so songs like a man with his ass on fire, comparisons with Hendrix reinforced by some nifty dentally enhanced guitar playing. Ending the set in true rock n’roll style he kicked over the munchkin drums and tipped over his pram speaker before ambling off to rapturous applause. Hell yeah! Let me hear you say “Hell yeah”...go on...louder...that’s better. Now go and shout “Hell yeah” at your boss (I know you read this shit at work), pack your job in, buy a bottle of Jack and learn to play the blues. It’s what Lewis would want.

I’ve seen Jim Jones Revue described as one of the best live rock n’roll bands in the world right now so my expectations were set pretty high. Okay...real high. In fact short of Elvis making a comeback and dry humping Little Richard whilst Jerry Lee whacks off merrily in his face I was almost prepared to be a little disappointed. Relax, we’re in safe hands here though. These dudes know what they’re doing. With a 20 plus year career in the biz Jim Jones (of cult late 80’s / early 90’s garage psych band Thee Hypnotics) has been around the block a few times and, happily, it shows. From the voice, a good golly miss molly style primal howl, to the stage moves, part Jagger, part Elvis, part dog on heat, Jim Jones is pure rock n’roll. It’s far from a one man show though, this is a band of equals with each member of the band more than pulling their weight (respect in particular due to the keyboard player...ya gotta love that boogie woogie piano). As you’d expect the material plugs straight into the veins of classic rock n’roll. Whilst most of it’s self penned an early in the set cover of Little Richard’s Hey Hey Hey Hey (which namechecks Birmingham of course...albeit the Alabama version) went down a storm, giving something for the true old school rockers to sing along with. With the crowd suitably warmed up (oh...alright then...moist), JJR plundered both their albums for the good shit, Rock n’ Roll Psychosis, Burning Down Your House (cue muchos groin thrusting and mic shagging from JJ), Cement Mixer...sweat dripped, ears bled and booty was shook. “We’re gonna make things mellow now” drawled Jim, before launching into Killin’ Spree, a frantic boogie woogie orgy with guitar string melting solos and a close contender for track of the night. That accolade’s reserved for furious encore opener Elemental though, with Jim testifying to a crowd that’s already been well and truly converted.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Flyover Show 2011

Oooooohhh Goldie's headlining the Flyover Show this year. Cool! In case you're wondering what the Flyover Show is, check this out...and this. There you go.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mostly Jazz Festival...they know their (green) onions...

2010’s debut Mostly Jazz Festival was one of my musical highlights of the year with frankly awesome performances from the Sun Ra Arkestra, Quantic’s Combo Barbaro and Cymande. If anything this year’s line up is even stronger with sets from the lovely Alice Russell, The Cinematic Orchestra, the Matthew Herbert Big Band and...wait for it...Booker T. YES. BOOKER freakin T! The guy’s a legend, having set up the in house band at Stax records and worked with everyone from Otis Reading and Ray Charles to Neil Young and Rancid. Now that’s a CV right? Of course he’s also responsible for the mod anthem Green Onions, which is pretty much the definitive Hammond track and he’s just released a brand new album (The Road From Memphis), widely touted as a bit of a cracker. Anyway, if you have even a passing interest in soul, funk, in general ...Mostly Jazz is pretty unmissable. Set in the lovely surroundings of Moseley Park it’s got the kind of snug, chilled out vibe that you simply don’t find anywhere else.

Tickets are still available for the whole weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) for a bargainmungous £77 (you can buy day tickets too but why not make a weekend of it eh?)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ladi6 – The Liberation of...

Coming straightoutta Christchurch, New Zealand, soulful Samoan hip hop diva Ladi6 unleashes her new album The Liberation of... With a CV that already boasts support slots for the late, great Gil-Scott Heron, tours with Fat Freddy’s Drop and Shapeshifter and a US award for Best International Song (as voted for by Tom Waits no less) she’s already something of a superstar in her native country but, I’m guessing, still a pretty new discovery over here. Coming off a little like a harder edged Erykah Badu in places this, her second solo album, has a jazzy funky vibe, lyrically rich and stuffed full of enough beats to get even the slackest ass in the groove. From the happy clappy opener Bang Bang through to the more experimental closing number Squid (replete with squelchy synths and sci fi sound effects) it’s an impressive collection of tracks that kicks a load of the female artists we’re currently being force fed (Nichole Scherzinger...purlease) right into touch. Throughout the album you get the feeling that this Ladi’s ‘4 Real’ and in a world full of hip hop poseurs and fakes that’s a refreshing change. Take one of the album’s key tracks ‘98 Til Now’ for instance, a blistering declaration of independence that sums up her 13...13!...years in the game. Yep, she’s sure put in the hours and this album’s the best possible ‘fuck you’ to anyone who’s ever doubted her. The Ladi is a champ.

The Liberation out on Question Music on 8th August and you can catch Ladi6 live at the equally awesome Big Chill Festival 4th-7th August.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rich Batsford / Jules Gray @ MAC, Saturday 11th June

After reading some great reviews and listening to a couple of tracks on t’You Tube I’d been meaning to go and see Rich Batsford for a while now. The unveiling of his new album, Mindfulmess, provided me with just the metaphorical kick up the ass I needed.

Before Rich, Jules Gray played warm up guy with a delightfully informal set of original songs and covers taking in a bit of Dylan, Stills, Harper (Roy) and Young (now there’s an idea for a new supergroup). After pointing out a yellow splodge on his shirt (the result of some errant gravy), explaining his surprise at the rather posh dressing rooms and generally endearing us all with his loveable lack of pretension he was then forced to enlist the help of one of the audience to retune his guitar after struggling to whip it into shape for a minute or two. On top of a knack for winning over a crowd he’s got a powerful voice (capable of hitting and holding notes better than a lot of singers) and a real gift for interpreting songs as well as penning some distinctly Dylan-ish originals. A real Jules in the rough.

Rich Batsford’s been merrily ploughing his own musical field for a number of years now as a pianist and singer with a flair for conjuring up tracks that encourage us all to take a little time out for reflection. Rich is a Buddhist, something I know little about other than the fact that it seems to be a pretty sensible way to behave (what with whole karma thing...a lesson most of us could do with learning methinks). Meditation and contemplation also seem to be big part of the Buddhist way and that’s clearly filtered down into Rich’s beautiful music. This evening saw the unveiling of his brand new album, Mindfulmess, a collection of songs about life, love and everything in between. It all kicked off with a playback of one of the album’s highlights, On Til Dawn, a dreamy soul cleanser of a track that combines a repeated piano motif with some gorgeous multi-layered harmonies. Add the equally dreamy backdrop of visuals from VJ Chromatouch and it neatly transported you into another world. It’s not often that gigs begin with a playback but, as Rich explained after wandering onstage, it’s a hard track to play so “I thought I’d just show the video”. Hmmm, short of cloning himself I guess those multi-layered harmonies would be a bugger to recreate. The rest of the evening though was pure, 100% live Batsford though and, from start to finish, it was the musical equivalent of a great big hug. Okay, bear with me here a mo. Hugs...everyone love’s a hug, right? A hug makes everything feel better somehow. For a few precious moments all the crap in the world (and the world is pretty stuffed full of it) melts away. Well, that’s just what Rich’s music does. That’s not to say that it’s all a bundle of laughs, lyrically there’s some quite dark stuff going on here as Rich himself acknowledged, but there’s an overwhelming feeling of hope too. In fact much of the material that he played this evening is concerned with trying to find inner opposed to working our asses off to buy the latest i-Gadget. Given the economic turmoil that’s still unravelling it’s a particularly timely message eh?

The spirit of Rich’s musical hero, Brian Wilson, ran through a lot of the material this evening, extending to a cover of I Just Wasn’t made For These Times and Rich’s very personal response to the track, Guessing Again. It’s a measure of Rich’s ability that this unofficial sequel sits so comfortably next to its parent song. In amongst all the new stuff Rich also took the opportunity to revisit his previous album, Valentine’s Court, a gorgeous collection of instrumental tracks that really show off his prowess as a piano player. Of these the fluid beauty of Namaste, as gentle as summer’s breeze, magically transformed the humble surroundings of a suburban arts centre into something infinitely more beautiful. A brave attempt at improvising a completely new track, live onstage (recorded for free distribution to all those who signed up to his mailing list) was also pulled off with remarkable ease with Rich revealing that he’s got a whole album’s worth of these impromptu sketches ready for release soon. Impressive stuff.

After touchingly thanking his mum and dad for “all those piano lessons” the set closed, as Mindfulmess does, with Everything and Nothing (possibly one of the only tracks ever recorded that credits ‘the Buddha’ as a co-writer) which somehow managed to distil Buddhist philosophy into a song that’s as catchy as it is thought provoking. “If you’re thinking too much and you’re way out of touch, let it ride” sang Rich at the track’s conclusion. It’s an excellent piece of advice but here’s an even better one...make a little room in your life for Rich’s music. Trust me, you won't regret it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mamas Gun – The Life and Soul

Pop soul behemoths (they’re huge in Japan and a bunch of other countries but criminally underrated in the UK right now) Mamas Gun are back with their second album and, given that they were responsible for one of my fave gigs of 2010, it’s appropriately titled ‘The Life and Soul’. Sizzling with 70’s era Stevie Wonder and 60’s Motown magic it’s got a light freshness that makes it a perfect summertime listen. Just take the title track The Life and Soul for instance. Kicking off with a Hendrix-ish guitar riff and Isley Brothers style vocals it goes on to embrace a little gospel and some Wonder-ish keyboards to create a blue eyed soul classic. It’s just one of the highlights of an album that’s jam packed full of ‘em, from the lush orchestration of On A String through to the funky Jackson 5 inspired Rocket To The Moon. The album ends with a cheeky cover of the Queen classic Bicycle Race, not the most obvious of their influences but, trust me, Mamas Gun live could well give Freddie and co a run for their money. In fact, just like their live gigs, you just get the feel they really have...ahem...put their ‘life and soul’ ( into this one. Highly recommended.

The Life and Soul is out now Candelion Records and the band's out on a UK tour from 14th June (no Birmingham date though...boooo!).

Thursday, June 09, 2011

James Blake / Cloud Boat @ HMV Institute, 8th June 2011

Of all the chilled out artists around right now James Blake seems to be sub zero, his soulful, sparse vocals matched by the minimalism of the music...simple keyboards occasionally interrupted by the odd kidney rupturing slab of dubstep. It’s music for listening to in the dark, with just your gentle sobs and the pitter patter of the rain on your lonely bedsit window for company. So the prospect of watching/listening to it all in a live setting, jam packed with other people, was strangely unsettling. All it takes is one cackling fool too fond of the sound of their own voice and that delicate world that Blake struggles to create is shattered like an eggshell under an elephant.

Opening act Cloud Boat, who occupy a similarly fragile world to Blake, sadly suffered this fate from time to time. Purveyors of twitchily atmospheric experimental electronica their big sell are the extraordinary vocal abilities of the duo’s lead singer. Capable of reaching an unearthly falsetto he genuinely seemed lost in the moment, frequently clamping his eyes shut or hunching over a box of electronic trickery responsible for the rumbling dubsteppy beats. Currently unsigned there’s not much of their stuff out there right now but they’re best experienced live anyway. Hypnotic.

By the time James Blake came onstage the venue was rammed. In a matter of months he’s gone from relative obscurity to coming in just below Jessie J as the BBC’s Sound of 2011, a fact that he still appears to be struggling with a little (he’s the polar opposite of JJ). Wandering onstage with his band (friends from his schooldays) he seemed pretty stunned by the size and reaction of the crowd. Inevitably if you’ve got a venue full of people there will be chattering. That’s not a major problem at some gigs but when you’re listening to a dude who uses silence as much as noise, it is. As a result some of the emotional intensity that Blake’s seeking to build up was frequently demolished by the endless background babble. Can you think of any other form of performance where people would think it was okay to natter, screech and cackle throughout? Nope, me neither. Tools.

Putting that aside, Blake’s actually attempting to do something pretty brave, fusing the kind of emotionally naked performances that would make Bon Iver seem a bit of a lad with huge great chunks of room shaking dubstep. Scattered in amongst these sonic experiments were more straightforward piano pieces that, at times, seemed at odds with what some of the crowd were expecting. Much of the set floated away into the ether, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Music’s there to take us somewhere else and Blake can certainly do that. It all worked best on the latter tracks though, where Blake’s musical melting pot combined to create something truly original. His cover of Feist’s Limit to Your Love began with delicate piano before the odd earthquake rumble faded in and out. It’s a powerful combination...literally capable of moving you in ways that few tracks manage. The Wilhelm Scream takes a similar approach, but if anything it was even more low key and haunting this evening. Taking things up a notch or three a 10 minute or so a version of Digital Mystikz’s Anti War Dub finally gave the crowd something to really nod along to. Joined by one of the dudes from Cloud Boat on trombone (yep...a trombone...dubstep meets brass band) it was an extended jam of dubby beats pierced by odd slivers of synth and Blake’s oddly detached rendition of the track’s main lyric “We don’t want no war tonight, we don’t want a fuss and a fight”. The encore saw the unveiling of a newish track ‘Heartbreak’, Blake alone and on piano. Stripped of the dubstep garnish that’s attracted so much attention – and perhaps closer to Arthur Russell than anything else – he seemed even more vulnerable up there, the living embodiment of much of his material. When all the hype’s died down (and I think he'll be more comfortable when it does) it’ll be fascinating to see where he goes from here...

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Home of Metal

It always piddles me off a little that Birmingham’s contribution to the musical world rarely gets the respect it deserves. After all there aren’t many cities that can truly claim to have spawned an entire genre of music, but Birmingham (and the Black Country) can. Yep, dear old Brum is the home of metal, which is quite handy really as that’s the title of a major retrospective that looks at the history of a sound that continues (in one form or another) to be hugely popular across the world...and quite possibly a little further afield too. The centrepiece of the whole thing is an impressive exhibition of memorabilia culled from under the beds of fans and the body strewn tour buses of legendary bands. It all kicks off at the Gas Hall (part of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery) on June 18th and tickets are just £6...why they didn’t make ‘em £6.66 I’ll never know...missed a trick there...albeit an unfunny trick but then again I’ve got a pretty simple sense of humour. On top of the main exhibition there’s a whole bunch of other cool stuff going on throughout the summer too. For the low down head over to the Home of Metal website.

The Young Runaways...your chance to get Closer

The Young Runaways release their beautiful brand new single ‘Closer’ on the 15th June and, being the generous souls they are, they’re celebrating by playing a free gig at Birmingham’s legendary Yardbird on the very same day. You don’t get Lady Gaga doing that do you eh? Keen to break with convention the accompanying vid for the single was recorded live too. “We’re not big fans of miming” explains singer Matt, “even for the purposes of filming - playing live makes it more real and exciting and hopefully that will come across not just in the video but in everything we do.” It does too. Currently winning fans all over the shop (me included) they're a joy to watch, blending folk, rock and a little bit of indie spunk (hmmm...messy) with some lush orchestral flourishes.

Closer is out on Commercially Inviable Records on 15th June.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Go wild in the country! Wilderness Festival 12th-14th August

Organised by the dudes/dudettes behind Secret Garden and occupying the same beautiful site that used to be home to Cornbury (which has now moved down the road a bit) Wilderness is an intriguing new addition to the boutique festival calendar. Bringing together music, art, literature, theatre, food and ‘wellbeing’ it boasts some suitably eclectic quality acts including the swoonsome Anthony and the Johnsons and the gypsy punk mentalism of Gogol Bordello along with Guillemots, Mercury Rev (performing their legendary Deserter Songs album in its entirety) and...amazingly...the king of outsider music himself, Mr Daniel Johnston. We’re not worthy. There’s even a spa and wood fired hot tub under the stars...a hot tub at a festival...jeez I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. Whether Daniel Johnston will pop in for a quick dip we'll have to wait and see.

Festival food generally sucks big hairy ball. In fact I'm pretty sure I've tucked into a pair once or twice, masquerading as the filling in a 'pasty'. But happily Wilderness seems to be catering for the stomach as much as it is for the mind, soul and ears. Fine dining comes courtesy of Moro Restaurant on Saturday evening and The Petersham Nurseries Cafe on Sunday. Sure as hell beats a spinal column in a bap eh? If you’re in the mood for a bit of a ponder Tom Hodgkinson of The Idler (rapidly becoming my personal bible) is running (well...walking probably) The Idler Academy too. All in all it’s the perfect event for people who like the idea of a festival but probably ain’t so keen on the grotty bits.

It all takes place 12-14 August at Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire and tickets are a not unreasonable £99.50 + booking fee. I'll see you in the hot tub...I'll be the one next to Daniel Johnston.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Adam Ant @ Birmingham Academy, Wednesday 1st June 2011

If you’re under 30 I guess it’s difficult to appreciate just how big Adam Ant was back in the early 80’s. For a few brief years he was one of the biggest pop stars around, responsible for a series of truly unique singles, videos and images (who hasn’t daubed tipex across their nose at some point eh?). Then, let’s face it, it all went tits up. Big time. The music was forgotten by most people and Adam Ant became a deeply, deeply troubled man. For anyone who remembers the thrill of those records and his wildly OTT Top Of The Pops performances it was all a bit heartbreaking really. There was, it seemed, absolutely no hope. Enforced periods in facilities for the mentally ill didn’t seem to do much good and promised live dates or releases failed to materialise. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he suddenly popped up and played a few low key live gigs last year. Looking at the clips on You Tube it’s fair to say that they weren't all wildly successful. It’s worth raking over all this stuff again just to give tonight’s gig some context. Here’s a guy who spent 7 years as a zombie, dosed up to the eyeballs on anti-depressants (“Unable to fuck” he informs us this evening). His last tour happened nearly 20 years ago and his heyday was 10 years before that. What the hell could we honestly expect from tonight eh?

The first surprise was the crowd. The place (which holds around 3000 people) was packed out, a mix of old punks, 80’s pop fans and the mildly to see a car crash perhaps? They’d be disappointed. I’m not sure how he pulled it off but this could be one of the greatest comebacks since Lazarus fancied having a walkabout. Looking like Captain Jack Sparrow’s older brother Adam bounds on stage and launches straight into one of his earliest songs, Plastic Surgery (taken from Derek Jarman’s 1977 film, Jubilee). Yep, before all the hits and appearances on kid’s TV shows Adam Ant was, of course, a full on punk (his first band, Bazooka Joe, were supported by some blokes called the Sex Pistols...playing their first ever gig in 1975...wonder what happened to them?). This early punk period is clearly where Adam’s heart still lies and whilst tonight he played pretty much every big hit they were all shot through with that same snarling sense of energy. For almost two hours Adam plundered his metaphorical treasure chest of tunes and, with each passing song, you could see the years fall away and the self confidence grow. Still capable of pulling off those trademark Ant twirls and thigh slaps it was (cliché alert) 'almost like he’d never been away'. He got chattier...and the night wore on too. On bands who haven’t paid their dues: “You’ve got guys with two hits touring stadiums? Fuck that, I work for a living”. On Bob Geldof and/or was difficult to tell: “Fuck off you sanctimonious Irish cunt” (it applies to both of them I guess). On hecklers in the audience: “Fuck off I’m talking...I can turn this mic up and really hurt you!” Marvellous stuff and such a refreshing change from bland between song banter eh? It seems that his Live Aid snub (his set was cut short to just one song to allow Geldof to play) still rankles over a quarter of a century later. He chose to play his new single ‘Vive Le Rock’ that fateful day and, given the unfamiliarity of the track perhaps, his slot failed to have the career enhancing impact that other artists enjoyed. Shame. You can’t help thinking “What if...” He played Vive Le Rock again this evening anyway and reminded us all that it was actually a cracking tune, especially in its snarly punk rock incarnation.

After blazing through everything from the more cult stuff like Beat My Guest, Car Trouble and (Never Trust A Man) With Egg On His Face and the biggies, Stand and Deliver, Ant Music and Goody Two Shoes, the first encore had to be Prince Charming. Adam whipped off his shirt to reveal an Adam Ant vest (available from the merch desk, naturally)and shimmied across the stage like a man half his age whilst large chunks of the crowd did that crossed arms thing...proving that ridicule is indeed still nothing to be scared of. Leaving the stage someone throws a red rose to him and Adam picks it up before gripping it in his teeth and posing like a lothario. The crowd still weren’t done with him though, so a second encore kicked off with a spirited cover of T-Rex’s Get It On. Finally there was just time for another snarling put down. “Trent Reznor covered this song and nicked my money. Fucking arsehole”. With that he launched into Physical, ripping his vest in two to reveal a surprisingly trim looking tum. Pausing only to check his watch (I’m sure he’d have played on if there wasn’t an 11pm curfew) and bask for a second or two in the rapturous applause he left the stage for the last time having put any lingering doubts about his ability to perform well and truly to bed.

If you were there expecting Adam Ant POP STAR then there’s a chance you might not have ‘got it’. Yes, he’s a little confrontational, sure, he has a bit of a mad stare in his eyes and, okay, he’s dressed like a extra from Pirates of the Caribbean, but if you tuned in to his original incarnation as a PUNK ROCKER tonight was simply a wet dream of a gig. Truly Ant-tastic.