Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Fossil Collective Gig Review Edinburgh

Fossil Collective @ Sneaky Pete's Edinburgh
Gig 29: 28 May 2012

And so I may be getting a little bit obsessed with this new found love of live music but when I got the opportunity to go to Scotland for a couple of days there was no way that I was going to pass up the opportunity of seeing a gig north of the border. The organisation of the trip was ludicrous, as I had expected a full week in Edinburgh last week which came to nothing, and today I found myself up with the lark at 5:00 sneaking around the house so as not to wake the sleeping children and incur the wrath of Mrs P.

Then after a panicked security check in in Birmingham, queues through to Franky and Bennies, I arrived in Edinburgh finally for my trip, after settling in for 3 hours I was off to Glasgow, and having been there for about three hours I was on my way back to Edinburgh. I had actually covered planes, trains and automobiles (taxi and car) today quite comfortably by the time the end of the working day closed and I checked in at the hotel. By this time, having skipped lunch due to travelling the 5:00 am wake up call was beginning to take its toll, so I cried off going out with my colleagues and went to my room. Looking out of the window however I was confronted with the following view, a view so amazing I would be kicking myself if I had stayed in watching Dara O’Briain on Dave, so I tweeted the band I knew was playing in Edinburgh, found out they were on at 9:00 and set off.

Having planned ahead for this eventuality I had google map directions to Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh. When I got to the end of the directions and found no venue of any sort, merely a closed cinema, I junped in a taxi and arrived at SP’s just as the support Blank Canvas kicked off their final track, which was a reasonable support band effort but nothing I could do justice with for a review.

Grabbing a beer from the bar (no pumps, so a bottle of Tyskie had to suffice) and I was leaning up against the pillar right in the middle of this tiny venue, pretending to be engrossed in my blackberry I watched as a couple more people entered and the band discussed whether or not to start and at 9:20 they kicked off. When the took to the stage, suddenly I remembered why I was keen to see these guys again having supported Ren Harvieu, not just because they had a great range of beards, from Desperate Dan to bum fluff, not because the drummer (or yuke player previously) player was the spitting image of Jimmy Carr with a beard, but.....these guys had been the best support act I had seen this year, with in particular the harmonies that they came up with being phenomenal.

As they kicked off the gig I found I had a nice spot front and centre with no one to block my view, which was nice given the giants from the St Etienne gig on Saturday and within seconds of the first song it felt like despite there being a limited crowd around I was listening to the start of a really special band. 

To give a feel for how sparse the crowd was you could hear the pedals being changed by the band in between songs with a clear click.

Set List
What can I say about the songs apart from the fact that they sounded perfectly formed without the band having released a note, great harmonies coming from the lead singer, drummer (Jonny who had escaped the yuke) and keyboard player (resplendent in bowler hat) meant that every song was stand out. There was a nice mix up when the set list, helpfully written out in Italian by the Italian contingent of the band, was misconstrued, and again it all added to the warmth of the gig. If I was pushed I would put the band close to Doves, but with better harmonies, the fun and warmth of Doves shines through, similarly for Elbow when they aren’t being too serious in their songs. The single that’s due out in June, possibly called let it go wrapped up the set, and has been a staple on the ipod (sorry but taped off myspace) since seeing them support Ren, and the choice of cover was interesting and a great take on Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’ – hopefully also to get an official airing.

The one thing that was slightly surreal was the announcement  by the band that it was their first gig in Edinburgh, and thanks for coming (no surprises so far) followed by, ‘Particularly these 2 at the front who have made the journey from Birmingham’ Aldridge we then found out specifically, and the guitarists from Hall Green. Armed with this knowledge of a Brum massive in the house, I felt I ought to make myself known at the end of the gig, and fuelled with a number of Tyskie’s I managed to avoid the ‘I love you I do’ initial gambit, to find out that this bands talent seems to have them on  a great upward trajectory, with some live radio potentially to come and play listing. Plus getting the band to sign a Tote bag (where would we be without Tote Bags) and embarrassing myself when stating to the Italian member of the band that he didn’t sound Italian after he said 2 words to me followed by a few sentences of pure Italian accent to make me smile sheepishly.

I left Tote Bag clutched in hand, warm Tyskie glow Reddie Brek like around me wondering whether I would be able to get Mrs P to come along to the free show at the Yard Bird in Birmingham, touch and go it will be, but as the drum playing Jimmy Carr impersonator is from Middlesbro, anything is possible.

Happy Days.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Saint Etienne @ Leamington Spa Gig Review

Saint Etienne @ Leamington Assembly
26 May 2012 Gig 28

So whats a mere 6,646 days between dates or 18 years, 2 months and 10 days, this is the period of time since last seeing Saint Etienne in concert, the first time was at Manchester Academy, Mrs P was at Uni at Manchester, it was my first year at work, I had to get up at the crack of dawn having slept in student digs and traverse the nightmare M6 traffic jams. What was a little disturbing was that Sarah Cracknell doesn't appear to have changed physically at all in that period, right down to the sparkly hugging dress and white feather boa whereas the ravages of time have definitely taken their toll on this side of the stage, particularly in the follicle area. In fact the only suggestion that Sarah may be older was the apology made half way through the gig for a mix up in songs and resulting (mild) swear word to her kids on the balcony.

Bob and Pete hide away
Saint Etienne are an interesting live prospect, Pete and Bob hiding at the back of the stage in the shadows looking proudly as Sarah is front and centre distracting everyones attention spotlighted through out, plus the unheralded multi instrumentalist backing vocalist and co songwriter on one track, who is so unheralded I can't find reference on the web to her name, great pipes though. This is all coupled with the backing of arty films to every song on the big screen behind, my favourite being the 'Top of the Pops from the 70's pictures' (with some rogue ones) - I would recommend the 35 years behind the times TOTP on BBC 4 Thursday at 7:30 to anyone.

When I say interesting, I suppose I mean different, with incredible highs, such as 'You're in a bad way' singing along to every word and bouncing up and down a bit more hum drum ones when the songs are just a bit more average and Sarah doesn't manage to add any sparkle. Luckily there were more of the former tonight than the latter. Sarah is a great front woman, although her style brings more to mind of trying to listen to what the lovely lass at the disco is saying in between the songs she sings along to and dances to rather than any amazing rock posturing, which is fun.

Fun is a definitely part of Saint Etienne's make up, which the signed sleeve of you're in a bad way on my wall demonstrates. Collected at a signing by Mrs P many years ago, its made out to me saying 'To Neil, I bet you're foxy as hell, love Sarah' which beats the best wishes of most bands.

Highlights for me were the obvious singles as ever, sing alongs with Sylvie 'Over and over and over and over again.....' and others (much appreciated by the band) and some of the flustered topics by Sarah. We had the wrong song intro a couple of times, a missed verse in he's on the phone and the story about coming here because she had seen Primal Scream at the venue and loved it twice, and a focus of one of the songs being a missed opportunity as a Eurovision song entry.

As you would expect there was were a number of songs from the new album, which Amazon has failed miserably to deliver this week, one of which was summed up as being about playlists with lyrics by Pete, although Pete did note that the song was far more complicated than this! They were pretty good but as ever need lots more listens, first single 'Tonight' definitely benefitted from this.

The gig ended with the whole crowd hands above heads cheering off the band, a great night had by all, and a pop next door to The Great British Take Away for some of the most tasty, lovingly prepared (i.e. slow) chips I have ever eaten, worth the wait, and another reason why the Assembly seems to be the venue that everyone enjoys the most with its Laurence Lewellyn Bowen chic.
Will I wait another 9,570,240 minutes before seeing Saint Etienne again in the flesh, who knows, but if they keep on being innovative with their merchandise with reissues (Giant Subutteo man sitting on my shelf attests to this) then I would imagine their songs will last longer than most. 

Not got too much to say about the support act, apart from it being the only gig where they referred to their songs as 'pieces' and were fine as backing music while we caught up with some friends, oh and as Mrs P rightly pointed out, as ever the 2 giants in the venue came and stood in front of us.......again! A better way to spend a Saturday night than watching Englebert fail at Eurovision miserably definitely.

p.s. - sadly I don't pay enough attention in life, the b/v's are provided by Debsey and she's been around for ages, as this clearly shows being the original mix with her vocals, I'll get me coat (cheers Patrick & George).

Friday, 25 May 2012

Poppy and the Jezebels Gig Review

Poppy & the Jezebels: Hare and Hounds
Gig 27: 23 May 2012

A bout of sickness at home was over and Mr P had his pass to leave the premises at night, a bit of a bonus meant that from a work trip to Scotland was cancelled and I was able to attend the cheapest gig of the year so far, a mere £3, less money than the pint of Coors that I would be buying later that night. So having got my boy off to sleep with tales of the Magic Roundabout and Yellow Submarine I was off to the Hare and Hounds in the blistering heat of the Summer (better than the winter last week).

Getting into the gig, I was pleased to see the Hare and Hounds had kept to their approach of not hitting the show times at all, mainly as the stories took a little to long and this meant I didn't miss any of the Carpels, a band who are one of the hottest things to come out of Birmingham at the moment and per this interview Here graduated earlier in the day. As an aside it was hot in the venue, but it still raised a few eyebrows when a scantily clad Jezebel was wandering round the place.

I'm not much of a critic, but 3 guitars bass and drums, lead vocalist swapping with keyboards, looked promising but for me the first couple of songs we a bit lacking with, in particular, the backing vocalist trying a bit too hard and ending up like he was singing a different song over the top of the band. But they then settled down a bit and the song with 'You said she loved me' really progressed with the lead singer getting really expressive.

They did fess up to not having done this for a while, which may have explained the ring rustiness, and they introduced the new bassist, who really was pleased as punch to be there. Who did they sound like, well there was a reasonable chunk of Editors hidden in there (no bad thing) with a front man with the expressive dancing that reminded me of Elvis Costello.

Getting to the end of the show and Handshakes showed what the hypes focussed on. Thumbs up.

Then a half an hour when I wandered over to the merchandise stall and was pounced on by a nice bequiffed bloke who was at pains to stress that this wasn't his record label (plenty of vinyl on sale) but that he owned most of it as his mate ran the label and the double vinyl collection of post punk records selected by Jon Savage was a great thing of beauty to buy, which of course I did being a sucker for a good vinyl story. This plus the single by Poppy and the Jezebels were deposited back in the car ready for the Poppies (not PWEI) to come on stage.

When they came on stage it was amazing just how young they all looked, well except the drummer who popped on her shades and massive headphones and seemed completely detached from the rest of the band for the whole gig. I've liked this lot for a while, a quick search on Itunes suggests that it was 2007 when I got their first ep which seems odd given how young they all looked, but hey given Ash were about 12 when they were on John Peel age is no barrier. They were quick to leap into their half hour set, comprising great bubble gum pop songs, key boards bass and drums. There was plenty of chat between songs, a pride in all the great reviews of the new single, with a focus on the one bad review which slated their 'Brassy and Regional accents' and even a hopeless rendition of happy Birthday to half the mates of the band, which though allegedly well rehearsed descended into bum notes and giggles.

The penultimate track was a reggae number Mammas boy followed by a good rendition of single Sign in, Dream on Drop out, which whilst good was not the highlight of the set, suggesting great things from a longer player to come. The best bits about Poppy and the Jezebels is definitely the spark and fun, they reminded me of Fuzzbox, another great Brum band in the outlook on life, less guitars but same loads of fun. They finished the gig and filed off through the audience to the dressing room with pats on the back from the crowd. 

All in all what was the best £3.00 spent tonight? the average coors or the spectacular P&TJB's well the answers clearly the bouncy girls. Quality.

Most surprising scene of the night, the incredibly old chap, looking a bit like Grandad Steptoe who was stood by the door watching through out, made me feel quite young and sprightly.

P.S. via the joys of Twitter: 'lovely review... And that old figure watching by the doorway actually WAS my beloved Grandpa believe it or not! Xx Dom from PATJ'

A trip to Istanbul

The view from the restaurant (no windows!)
Bingo, a freebie with work to Istanbul, a couple of days away, hard work but somewhere I've never been before. Do I know anything about Turkey? Well I went on holiday there in 1995, it was hot, the waiter in the hotels name was Elvis, we went to Ephasis, an old ruin Roman city and spent an ace day on a boat drinking and diving into the sea.

Was this likely to occur in Istanbul on a work trip, no.

So did I have any preconceptions, well I had been told that it was a nightmare to drive around, it's a developing country and the city is massively populated, 18 million unofficially. So in my mind I was expecting Istanbul to be like Calcutta. I was wrong, landing after a 4 hour flight I needed. visa for £10, walking towards the visa sign there was a massive massive queue. I was not overly impressed, but a little local knowledge led me passed the queue to the other end of the airport where there was a bank of 3 windows with old ladies in doling out visas (no significant signs) and no queues, bingo!

Out and into a taxi and the slow journey from the European side of the city across the Asian side, across the Bosphorus, having passed the Galatasaray stadium (really impressive) and the river was beautiful, the island where Octopussy was filmed is on there Pparently, plus a well preserved castle.

Arriving at the hotel, the journey not being too bad, it was typical European, Standard, really nice, stood on the top of a really impressive new shopping arcade, the venue for tea, wandering round we a kebab restaurant was picked and we had lots of bits and bobs, whilst being watched by the waiter. We had mini pizzas, salad filled with pomegranate juice, a massive puffed up bread, some fries, and then kebabs. Mixed kebabs, and I've no idea what was in them, but they were some of the tastiest meats ever, with a bit of a kick to them. Sadly as the asian side is a Muslim country it's dry, and as a result no alcohol, a bit like the no alcohol in the Jack Daniels distillery, another fun trip in the states. So we quelled the kick with 7 up. Then a wander round the resort, lovely weather but cold for the locals who were wrapped up whilst we were in our shirt sleeves.

Hotel bar, and a few local beers in a typical bar like Cheers off the tv and bed.

Next day was work, round the factory, nice new build, lovely people, power outs 3 times in the day, bizarre fruit at lunch called Eric's. They look like a little green apple, have a stone in the middle, are a bit plummy, but nice, I'd buy them if they had them in Sainsburies. The other Fun bit at lunch was sitting in between everyone who talked Turkish over the top of me, while I smiled like a tourist.

Really friendly people who offered to take us for dinner, the question was simply do I like meat or fish, well not a big fan of fish so I said truthfully meat. They were very polite, took me to a nice restaurant by the side of the sea, in a street of wonderful fish restaurants and one meat one, serving the same kebabs as I had had the day before. Great setting though, open fronted which was interesting when the sky's opened for. Monsoon type 2 minute shower.

Back to the hotel, more Cheers beers (accompanied by a lady playing the harp who i wanted to ask if she knew wake me up before you go go but didnt have the bottle), bed and up for the crack of dawn flight. Fags from duty free (I think I may have bought too many and smuggled for the mother in law) and some Turkish delight with pistachio nuts. Flight home and then work in Brum which ended with a Day getting up at 3am and being with clients until 6. Knackered.

So my overall impression of Istanbul, didn't see enough but what I saw was a modern, European, thriving City, and a great free trip. Who said works dull in the profession of accountancy.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Lets be Friends at the 02 Academy

Friends Birmingham O2 Academy
Gig 25: 12 May 2012

So this was the 3rd night of seeing hyped up bands locally and I was jaded after a week of work surrounding the gigs too. As such I decided to forego the support band tonight, sorry, and also to miss the queues outside for the Happy Mondays and Inspirals gig (on in the larger room and where if I am honest I may have rather been).

Arriving at the gig I knew 2 songs by Friends, as ever by way of finding out through listening to Radcliffe and Maconi and was interested to see them come on. It was a relatively poor turn out in the 200 capacity room, but when the band came on it was good to see that they put this to one side and cracked on. 

The first thing you couldn't miss was that this was an arty band (well they are from Brooklyn) and each member of the band have their own clear identity. Singer Samantha Urbani was keen to get some involvement from the audience, and quickly, she kicked off with compliments, including that the Birmingham Audience (they would all try to pronounce Brummie better later) were able to scream better, after which she kicked off a combined scream for all in the room which (as amplified for the band) must have caused Shaun Ryder a raised eye as he polished his new teeth whilst waiting to go on.

The band also had a nice approach to their instruments, swapping them regularly, with the bass being passed around quite a lot. Lesly Hann the main bassist and backing singer was a very striking individual, standing mid stage, starting with an incredibly bright Eighties jumper and and going through 95% of the gig without providing any facial expressions at all. She cracked a smile only when the 'Birmingham' pronunciation contest kicked off.

Third song in and Friend Crush was unleashed on the audience, Samantha then popped down into the audience and had a proper dance with many, I ensured that I shuffled backwards with typical British restraint and watched the trendies dancing as groovily as they could to impress the band. 

The songs were all pretty good, but I was captivated probably more by them because of the spectacle of the band, who with the golden Samantha and jumper stripped off Lesly were flanked by keyboardist John Belushi look alike, Shaggy from Scooby Doo on drums and a pirate with a 'Fat Possum Records Oxford Mississippi' T Shirt on, (looks a nice shop - Click Here!). 

This was definitely a feel good gig, really arty songs that cracked along and I left with a big grin on my face, set list in hand, scrawled on the back of immigration form instructions for Australia.

Ranking the 3 gigs of Hyped bands, probably Howler, then Friends, then Alabama Shakes......all worth the entrance fee though.

Black Sabbath Return Home Gig Review

Black Sabbath: 02 Academy Birmingham
Gig 26: 19 May 2012

So to start with, before tonight what did I know about Black Sabbath, well

1) a legendary name in Heavy Metal,
2) a Brummie band,
3) a cracking couple of tunes in War Pigs and Paranoid
4) the carnival that is Ozzy Ozbourne and
5) Tony Iommi who has a star on the Broad Street Walk of Fame and sliced his finger tips off the day he quit work to join the Sabs.

Why did I buy the ticket? well curiosity as this was Black Sabbath's first gig, homecoming gig, for umpteen years and Ozzy was back (although Drummer Bill Ward wasn't able to make the show due to contractual terms not being appropriate, and a youngster was drafted in, although I would have thought at his age this would have caused a coronary for Bill).

Having followed Ozzy's career on reality TV from a distance I was intrigued and was one of the lucky 3,000 to get a ticket. Arriving at the venue, you could see this was going to be a different affair from the normal at the Dome. For a start there was an official merchandise truck outside, doing reasonable business and the security to get in was tight, spread your arms please sir tight. I queued up and was thrown into the world of Wayne, party on!

On gaining entry to the gig it was great to see a rammed venue chock full of, well mainly old blokes in black T Shirts, more hair and beards than normally and a penchant for raising their hands in the air, pointing their index and little fingers in the air and shouting yeah. This behaviour was being instigated by the roadies who would do this on stage while black light shone around and classic metal tracks were fired off.

I wedged my way into the crowd, got as near the front as I dared (without a Black T Shirt) and sipped my cooking lager. Around me were some of the tallest blokes I have ever seen, Metal must attract giants, and virtually no ladies at all. Around half eight, as advertised the band came on (I was surprised as I would have put money on Ozzy not being organised from my preconceptions). He came out with proper Sabbath Hair, Black top with silver cross, flanked by 2 of the most dapper looking 60 year olds in Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler and the YTS lad bare chested on drums (I'm sure he is probably very well known, but he wasn't a pensioner so he's the YTS man).

Boom and the riffage starts with 'Into the void' and Ozzy is nothing like what I was expecting, he's not a shuffling around barely coherent brummie on reality TV, he is in fact a Metal God, head bowing forward and back with gusto throughout the set, screaming out the lyrics, running side to side arms outstretched with mad eyes and F'ing and blinding at every opportunity. The piece de resistance was however the use of the water at the back of the stage, I didn't notice how he got drenched going into the second song, but it was really effective, whipping around the rats tails of hair and throwing his arms in the air to fountains of spray, turns out he's got a bath back there. This was the most theatrical way of keeping cool that I think I have ever seen, and topped off with a few bottles thrown into the mosh pits coupled with roughly 2 bath fulls at different instances.

Riffage - I have never seen anything like Black Sabbath for it, the way the songs build on Iommi's brilliant guitar playing, explode mid way through the number at pace with a wall of drums bass and Ozz in support. Its not surprising that someone was holding up at every opportunity their 'I belong to Iommi' TShirt which Tony casually acknowledged with one of the coolest nods I have seen. In fact Tony was getting a lot of hero worship with football chanted 'Tony, Tony' ringing through the venue, if there ever was a better message to someone recovering from cancer that they are adored I would be surprised.

After getting on for 2 hours the band started winding down, they popped off stage and the drummer got the crowd going with a drum solo and 3 beat duet with the audience getting faster and faster before it erupted into another solo, just to prove he wasn't just here for the ride and had earned his place.

Ozzy then confessed we had one more song and if we went mental then they would come back for an encore, everyone went mental, particularly the little metaller beside me who was swinging his hair all over the place in brilliant moshing interspersed with fingers aloft guitar playing eyes closed.

They left the stage, and we were led in a chorus of one more song by Ozzy until they came out to start that final song, the first chunk of which left me a bit disappointed as it wasn't the start of Paranoid, conspicuously absent throughout the set, and then a change in riff and suddenly I jumped to the striking chords of Paranoid, and the set finished in blistering fashion. After that I wandered out, past the incredibly expensive black Tshirts and onto the street ears buzzing.

Good Gig then? yeah, bloody great gig and this morning I still had War Pigs going round and round my head, a phenomenal bloody gig.  5 Stars I would expect in the evening mail and no mistake.

Set List: Into The Void, Under The Sun, Snowblind, War Pigs, Wheels Of Confusion, Electric Funeral, Black Sabbath, The Wizard, Beyond The Wall Of Sleep, N.I.B., Fairies Wear Boots, Tomorrow’s Dream, Sweet Leaf, Symptom Of The Universe (intro), Drum Solo, Iron Man, Dirty Women, Children Of The Grave, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (intro), Paranoid

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Alabama Shakes Birmingham - Gig Review

Alabama Shakes: HMV Institute
Gig 24 11 May 2012

Another Gig in Brum and just arrived for the support Childhood, who looked pretty good. The initial songs were poorer as the singer just looked to shout the lyrics, but I liked the image more when they slowed down a little. Then the voice was more measured and went nicely with the guitarist's quiff, Hawaiian shirt and cap, brought me back to the 80's.

Looking round the audience it was interesting to see they were predominantly older, presumably a Radio 2 and 6 Music listening crowd, funnily enough the reason that I was there, as the Alabama shakes had been getting quite a lot of hype and the show had been upgraded to the larger room. Whilst I had heard a lot of the singles, I hadn't seen any photo's of the band so it was interesting to see them come on, and probably the most musically credible whilst stylistically not caring lead singer I have ever seen.

How would I describe the singer, a spectacled guitar wielding Mom in comfortable clothes, but the guitar wielding was then supplemented with an amazing voice, not one that I could place straight off but an amazing American voice that bugged me throughout the concert. Whilst on the topic of the visuals of the band the bassist seemed to be Romeo from the magic numbers hiding underneath a cap.

A stand out (apart from the single which landed early) came later when the hammond organ player got to really show his stuff at the side of the stage. The songs were pretty good as a whole, would have been at home on Beale Street in Memphis and no doubt far more so in Alabama. They then launched into a new song, which was a real old school rock and roll number and finally let us know they had one more number Y'all and they were gone.

They were a proper band, remind me of the brilliant holidays taken in America before kids and in particular the driving tour round the south, Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans and others.

Finally on the way out it clicked where I recognised the voice from, and I was really amazed because the songs kept resonating with  I ain't never, never, never loved a man the way I love you.....which was Aretha Franklin and a phenomenal voice.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Howler: Leicester Sound House

Howler: Leicester Sound House
Gig 23: Thursday 10 May 2012

Another trip to the East Midlands, another debut venue, and another sat nav route through a pedestrian bollarded area.

As a new venue, this was a bit of a surprise, the Leicester Sound House  sounds grand, and turned out to be a long thin pub, where should you need the loo you have to get almost to the stage (if you are a bloke) and virtually sitting in the stage if you are a young lady.

When I arrived the support band Fin (who had let me know on twitter when they were on stage) had just kicked off, and the phrase that springs to mind was cock sure, they had a guitarist who whirled about like a dervish, and a lead singer with quality hair who shouted out 'life is wasted on the living' they were a pretty average support band, with one exception, the stage antics of the lead singer both hanging from the scaffolding around the stage for the penultimate song and then walking in amongst the crowd to sing the final song was a first for a support band.

I stepped back from the stage, glanced up, and saw a celebrity, the Dove from above. Suddenly this venue  leapt in my opinion from simple pug with a stage to shrine to the world of Vic and Bob, just quality, I barely managed to stop myself cooing to beckon down the dove.

Half an hours crappy work emails later and on came Hooded Fang a Canadian band who I was really looking forward to as their song Tosta Mista is one of the best songs of the year. I was a little disappointed as the first few songs were a little dull until Tosta Mista came on and the lass of the band joined in with the vocals with her enchanting voice, the excitement must have been too much for her because after that song she asked for permission to pop to the loo, which was no problems as the loo was right by the stage for the ladies and off she went. The lads in the band improvised a song, which was a cracking surf guitar romp, and the rest of their short set picked up from there. I wonder what these Canadians really made of a support act in a pub in Leicester.

Another half hour and Howler came on, an incredibly young indie band from Minneapolis who I had been turned onto by Radcliffe and Maconie as usual. Johnny Marr has also come in favour of the band which sits them in good pedigree having stood by him to watch Suede in Manchester many moons ago, the man has good taste (not meaning standing next to me).

The audience at the front were youthful, and ready to full on mosh, I make no bones about moving over to the side of the room to let them mosh, mainly because I was still within about 8 foot of the band in this tiny venue. The mosh was full on, its a very low stage, no space between the band and audience and within seconds the mosh pit was doing its best not to sprawl all over the stage. In one song a young lady found herself burst onto the stage and went quietly to sit on a stool by the stage until the song finished. 

This was one of the tightest gigs I have seen, the nature of the band reminded me of the Libertines in full throng and whilst I've not seen them live the Strokes. There was a really strong connection with the audience and the band knew it. They had a lot of interaction with everyone at the front rattled through the songs, primed everyone for no encore and finished with Free Drunk (having jammed sone classics songs before hand) claiming we've got no more songs for an encore.

This was really an electric gig and I can't see Howler doing a gig of this size again for a long long time, I was caught up in the moment and bought the Vinyl album on the way out before driving back home feeling I had seen a special gig, from a band who deserve more hype.........

Reflections on Birmingham's season

So how do I feel about not being promoted this season, a few days after the end of the season and I am remarkably relaxed about it, as this season has proved the most exciting probably since the days of Barry Fry.

Watching the game, there was the typical Blues moments, soft goals just before and after half time, but probably more typical of Blues these days is the fight back, how many games this season have we fought back, or gambled to win and been rewarded with last minute goals.

This season has been so different to the last campaign in this division (under McLeish which ranked as the dullest I have seen for years). Having a system of aiming to win, with real pace and trickery on 2 wings and a number of centre forwards who can find the back of the net relatively regularly is just fantastic.

Other amazing things this season, 4 goal Zigic sinking Leeds, the power of Nathan Redmonds shots, and the sheer intake of breath the crowd takes when he picks up the ball, how Burke ( Burke Burke will tear your apart again) just jinks past players at will, and again, and again. Plus some of his goals, step over curl into the top corner amazing. N'Daw, a monster, amazing before the African nations cup, shoooot whenever he had he ball n he opposing half, Murphy, finally seeing off cheating Ridgewell to claim the left back position for himself, marauding down he wing and scoring cracking goals time and time again, scoring 2, 3, 4, even 6 goals regularly in games, from all over the park, a back 4 that became invincible whilst we were still attacking in nature, only losing once at home all season, with some really long unbeaten runs, a European campaign, where we really went for it, the only British team ever to win in Bruges. Dealing with set backs time and time again and a team we were proud of, the players we had all being players who seemed to want to play for each other.

Looking back on previous seasons, could I say I felt the same excitement all over the place, I think not. Plus seeing the Vile torn apart by the manager the stole from us (now with our blessing) has been amusing, plus the collapse of other jumping ship players at their clubs.

Plus my boy went to his first game and we moved our seats to the back of the /Kop corner.

This could have been so different with our money troubles, but it's been great.

Although I fear we may not see the same first team and manager in place next year, but when has the life of the Blues has never been easy.

I'm looking forward to the Blues playing again with the added benefit of a Wolves derby again.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Ladyhawke rocks out at Glee

Ladyhawke @ Birmingham Glee Club
Gig 22 Sunday 6 May 2012

Another trip to the Glee club, another week missing the pub quiz, but the promise of another great gig awaited. I must admit to being slightly disappointed that there were no chairs tonight (not because of anything more than feeling knackered from a trip to the Gym) but on entry the smell of hotdogs (on sale at a hot dog stall of course) and at the bar the smell of fresh sweetened popcorn soon ensured that I was distracted from the lack of chairs.

The venue was rammed (Ladyhawke was later to mention she was surprised with how many were there to see her) and a big queue at the bar but the bar staff rattled through until the person in front of me got caught out by the more than £15 to use cards rule. They searched the menu for something worth topping up their 2 San Miguels but failed and slunk off - a couple more San Miguels and some popcorn would have done it, but I wasn't about to voice this).

Armed with my San Miguel I settled in (front and centre 2 rows back) to await the support, provided by She's so Rad (or as they were from New Zealand, she's so Red... which caused confusion over here). This young band were really chuffed to be here, thanked Ladyhawke 'heaps' , and were enjoying the tourist bit around the UK. The music blasted out loud and droney, a bit like when I saw the Dandy Warhols who, in between the hits, would play loads of loud droney noise. Here we had no hits though, just drone although every now and then there was a tune trying to peep out. We got a twin peaks cover Rockin back inside my heart, although Angelo Badalamenti's tune still didn't connect, the vocals hidden. It was an interesting set up of the band, vocals either side with a bass player in the middle to strike poses and to swing his hair, with plenty of knee playing guitar riffs. They finished and plucked some quality out in Circles, cracked through at pace and saved the day.

On came Ladyhawke, who I haven't listened to a lot of in the past, I was expecting a folky type, but she proceeded to electro rock out with her band (including Tom from Brum, who looked suitably lost for words and embarrassed when this was bought up). Ladyhawke spent the gig being very polite and chuffed with her support, she noted that we were a little closer in and intimate than normal and this led to a great atmosphere.

It was a mix of new and old songs, with some cracking chorus's 'Na Na's' in Blue eyes and 'Bang Bang Bang on the wall' elsewhere  which kept things easily interactive. We treated to a wig out ending to one of the songs too, which was again a surprise, in fact the inbetween song banter did include a revelation that one of the songs was about Zombie Apocalypse so quite a few surprises. Although I did find my mind wandering a couple of times, whether to reading the names of the instruments (Fender's for Tom and Ladyhawke, very fetching too) or that the other guitarist must be pretty hot in his grey sweatshirt which might not be a good sign of being totally absorbed in the songs.

Then the gig came to a close with My Delirium, a real crowd pleaser and I wandered out thinking that this rock out must be what going to a Pat Benatar gig must have been like back in the day, however as I haven't really heard her songs that much, she may well have been folky!

A last note. Once again the coming in, no tickets, plus the well stocked pile of flyers and free mags makes the Glee Club a cracking venue to visit.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

New Order At the Ballroom Gig Review

New Order: Birmingham Ballroom.
Gig 20: 29 April 2012:
Now the was a gig that had been looked forward to for sometime 3 members of New Order (Hooky absent) were coming to Brum, I had never seen them and was pretty excited. The gig passed Mrs P's criteria of 'not being a crappy band I've never heard of' and she was in (in fact she found out about the gig and told me to book it) and 2 of the pub quiz team were coming too (much to the disgust of our remaining pub quiz member, whose more of a 70's than an 80's man when it comes to music - his explanation, who had to valiantly battle on on his own).

We got into town, in the pouring rain, and into the Ball Room (nee Carling Academy, nee Hummingbird, all redone and worst of all, the sticky carpet has been replaced!!!!!). We got there just as the support came on and it was absolutely rammed, New Order are probably the biggest band to have hit this venue for years and years, and it was rammed with blokes. To be honest blokes and blokes and blokes and blokes and baldy blokes....and the Missus.

Support band Jake Evans was pretty good, normal indie rock, backed with a big banner shouting simply www.jakeevansmusic.com - not too inspiring but at least it meant that in between each song I was not willing him to explain who the band were and wondering if I had misheard him which happens with a lot of other support bands. The subliminal advertising did work as I have visited the website and downloaded the free tune. Turns out he was in Bad Lieutenant and so I presume that this was Bernie's helping hand now he had left that band for the time being.

Couple more beers had by all and we worked our way to somewhere that the shorties could see, which was at the back by the merchandise stall, which worked sensibly enough, whilst not being the greatest of vantage points as can be seen by the photo. Plus it did pose the problem that the Ballroom has always had, if you are under the balcony the sound quality is radically reduced. 

On came New Order, who despite their size (tiny tiny specs) and the sound quality, did not disappoint. The crowd welcomed them on and they started off with Crystal, a blistering recent song that I absolutely love (or thought I did). Whilst it is a brilliant song, its on the ipod, it has 5 stars, next to the likes of True Faith, Blue Monday or the encore Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart it is just fine! I hadn't realised at all how brilliant those songs are, its only when you see them live that they really knock you sideways.

The crowd lapped up the performance, each song cheered on, big screen films, lazer effects, drum machines....welcome to the eighties, and its telling that even being that far back, with the pillar box view of the band, with crap sound, it was still an experience and a half.

Was particularly impressed to have guessed the encore before it happened, and a little disappointed not to have had the World Cup song world in motion (but how do you replace John Barnes' rap).

Better than quiz night? - yep!

Set List:

  1. 586 
  2. Encore:
  3. (Joy Division cover)

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Bow Wow Wow Gig Review

Bow Wow Wow @ Leamington Assembly Rooms

Gig 21: 1 May 2012


Walking into the Leamington Assembly Rooms was an odd experience this time, said my name on the door and could see only 3 names with e tickets on the list, upstairs to the bar, 4 people milling around and no queue, into the venue itself and it was dark with no one in there. 

Was I mega early, no, not at all, doors opened at 7:00, I got there at 8:00, no one else did. So a bit of milling about was called for and people started drifting in, but let me emphasise, slowly.

However that was a shame, because what was to come was a good night indeed. 

After quite a while on came Pint Shot Riot, reasonable indie band, playing to the 25 or so people who had now gathered. Great stage presence from the front man, keen to gauge reaction of new songs, he could have asked us individually really. For me the song (presumably called) Breakdown was stand out, but the songs did nothing really to stand out from the crowd. Pretty good enthused indie rock.

Rough count is 40 here now, it's very sparse. The tunes while we wait a good selection of Clash tunes to get people in the mood. A quick audience watch reveals a cowboy hat, vivid red died hair mom dragging round her lad, funny bobble hat, no one under 40 except for the lad, some stand out stand up hair (which may just be hair envy on my part).

A potter to the merchandise stall shows it to be unmanned and just support band merch of which there is a signed album, unsold, t-shirts unsold, free cd singles, 'please take one' the chap standing near the stall says, 'nothing to do with me but I have been asked to try to clear them, in fact there's 2 different ones take a couple each for friends.'

So I did. To be polite......

On came the blokes of Bow Wow Wow a quick instrumental and drew us in. The drums set things apart from the first beat, the Burundi drums inherited from the ex ants (as original drummer isn't with Bow Wow Wow) are incredibly fresh sounding. 'Where is she?' was the call and then on came Annabella Lwin, she's filled out a little at 45 but the voice and energy were undiminished from 30 years ago.

Annabella drew everyone closer to the the stage and launched into her set, her first song showed that there were a few die hard dancers such as Whip it (with the cowboy hat) and the big fish little fish cardboard box man, who was so impressive he got to high 5 Annabella. This would have been more impressive if he hadn't missed then injured her hand.

The passion in the songs came thick and fast, no bum songs with Annabella whirling and chatting throughout. Not bad for a 45 year old, sorry in hind sight phenominal for a 45 year old, loved it! She had so much energy and passion for the gig, backed by the original bassist (a suitably bald bloke) and 2 glamorous replacements who probably hadn't been born when the
tracks were first released.

I want candy and C30 C60, C90 go were the highlights for me, but I will be pulling my Bow Wow Wow greatest hits off the shelf to investigate more as the quality of the other songs was superb live, such as afrodisiac.

They went off and the small congregation managed to keep up enough noise for the full 5 minutes to warrant a 3 song encore, including another instrumental.

Then it was the end and I realised that I had a strained face from having grinned my way through the set, not taking themselves too seriously, drums galore and bringing the small crowd to life made thus gig somewhat special. I did kind of go wild in the country for the night.

Why so few people there? touring one hit wonders from 30 years ago is a challenge, but they could be using social media to drum up support, dull facebook page, no twitter, no show times on line, no website for updates......a staple in the modern day and age, as they had been doing the traditional stuff like Radio interviews.