Adventures in Birmingham: OxJam

Last year, OxJam was not only one of my best Birmingham discoveries but one of my favourite days of the year. Last year we caught a few soloists like Neil Ward but the highlight was city favourite Tom Peel at arguably the best venue, The Victoria.

So I am very much looking forward to this year although there are less ‘live music venues’ and more coffee shops. As you know, I love music in coffee shops but feel that should be an addition; we should still have premier venues such the Victoria. Having said that, compared to last year, I got to see a lot in the Yardbird this year; the much talked about Musgraves at the Yardbird were as good as I imagined – they sound so familiar in fact that I feel I have seen them before after all.

The Scholars were as good as I remember them from a This Burning Age gig after which, the schedule was thrown out because Free School had problems setting up their laptops (not rocknroll as we know it). When they were ready to perform, they put on masks which from where we were sitting spooked us out. Furthermore, the impact would have been greater had they come on wearing said masks rather than slipping them on on-stage in full view, but erm, interesting.

The planned highlight of my day is The Young Runaways. I’ve seen both their acoustic and regular sets before and feel it’s a treat to see both on the same day. The late afternoon set at Café Blend was excellent and the Yardbird set to launch the EP was equally good. Then they performed a hateful Beyonce number and I couldn’t see a hint of irony. They played another track after that but unfortunately I already had a bad taste in my mouth (and not from my first ever Ostrich burger from the hut outside which was actually OK).

All in all, OxJam is a fantastic idea and if I’m still in Birmingham, I hope the organisers book early and we get the Victoria back on the menu in 2012.

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Adventures in Birmingham – Music Mayhem

Supporting live/local music

I didn’t set out to break any records but if I did, it will be to hear as much live music as possible. Starting at my own event, Birmingham Vintage Fair to the end of Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival last Sunday, this is the lowdown:

June 25th        Birmingham Vintage Fair

OK I booked them but I had not seen them live so I’m as impressed as everyone else:

Naked Remedy – does psychedelic blues describe them? Whatever, once I’ve got past how well the lead singer sings, while drumming, whilst keeping hold of the audience I realise this trio can make a lot of noise and all of it good, all of it original.

Dakesis – to bring the other side of the early 1970s in, this 5 piece pull together two electrifying sets incorporating some glam rock covers along with a couple of their own. All bought the house down & I ‘m particularly pleased when I see ‘20th Century Boy’ on their set list. Ever since I saw other local favourites, The Whiskey Syndicate include it in their amazing set, it’s become a bit of an anthem in planning BVF. I’m looking forward to the fireworks they have in their real set!

June 28th         The Actress & Bishop

??? who were they??!

Rebecca & The Roses – one to look out for.

Naked Remedy – again, because they were so good I couldn’t resist a little trip to my local venue to see them (just two of them) unveil their acoustic set. Yes they really do live in the 1970s, it wasn’t just for BVF and the acoustic set just as good with a little hint of gospel in the vocals. LOVE.

June 30th         Hare & Hounds

Pharmatronik –  duo comprising guitarist & bassist/singer with a drum machine(?!), don’t get it but somewhat entertaining

Scholars – pretty darn good although they’re not local!

This Burning Age LOVE LOVE LOVE – you already know how I feel so there’s nothing to add.

But I will anyway. It was a little special going to the shrine that is Hare & Hounds for the first time so I’m not sure if that bought the extra emotion, or just because I’m still in a post-BVF dream state or just because they’re that good.

Of all the gigs on this list, this is the only one I had to go out of town for. All the others are within walking distance proving there is so much in the city, I never need to leave it. Except for this lot, of course.

July 1st                        Urban Coffee Co, Live Music Friday

Fingerprint – On the first Friday of each month, there is no need to miss live music at the local coffee house and this month it’s the entertaining duo Fingerprint. Always a pleasure to support ‘Live Music Friday’ but must I explain every month that we’ve come especially to hear the music?? Musicians always assume we are there for coffee/chat and they’re interrupting us. Have faith!

And now it’s on to a highlight of my year, Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival.

July 2nd           Lord Clifden

Zingaros New Gypsy Tango (Argentina) A good start to ‘Jazz week’

 followed by:   Fredericks

New Orleans Jump Band (Spain) My first time in this relatively new place in my ‘hood. I saw these cats last year at Hotel Du Vin. They went on longer this time (past my midnight curfew) and demanded a bit too much (shouldn’t really require anything from your audience other than maybe, attention) but still extremely entertaining and a good spot for music.

3rd                    Hotel Du Vin

Teens Jazz Band Velke Losiny (Czech Republic) Hotel Du Vin was last year’s highlight but this year, they’ve changed the rules and there is no table service and no bar food. Plus, unless you get a seat by the stage, you have to look across Sunday lunch diners to see the band. For me, a formal meal and watching a band just do not mix. A good band though.

4th                    Urban Coffee – JQT

Will Scott (USA) – A first for live music in Urban JQ and it works plus it’s standing room only; pretty good for 4pm on an admittedly steamy Monday afternoon. It has to be an American singer/song writer for Fourth of July and one that sings bluesy country – perfectly.

5th                          Lord Clifden

Will Scott (USA) – he is so good in fact that we go back to see Mr Scott the next day doing a full gig. This is the highlight of the week; supported ably in the promotion and backing singer stakes by the lovely Jan Bell who somehow manages to spot the country fan in me and gives me her details too, when we line up at the back of the queue to buy CDs.

Three sets, one encore and the crowd still want more of the stories in between each song. Value for money, particularly as it’s free.

6th                    Lord Clifden

Brooks Williams (USA/UK) the second of our three nights residency at Lord Clifden and an even bigger crowd for two fantastic bluesy sets from this USA born, UK based guitarist.

7th                    CBD Food Festival & Lord Clifden

Lewis Floyd Henry (UK) – both times late, both times disappointing and yet still the crowd applaud him. There is none of the chat between tracks we’d gotten used to. They really shouldn’t quote Hendrix in his profile.

8th                    Waters Edge, BrindlyPlace

Djabe (Hungary)- the first time I make the live music at the bandstand and these guys are perfect for outdoors music.

9th A night off!

10th                  Hotel Du Vin

Bourbon Street Stompers (Germany) – we save one of the best to last. A full jazz band from Germany with plenty of action and patter to keep us going– who knew? Another highlight and a fitting end to my week of Jazz & Blues.

For each act I’ve seen, I’ve felt as though I have travelled around the world and through time, from New Orleans and Memphis to the 1920s and 1960s. I feel mightily blessed to have all this right on my door step.

16 artists, 16 days, 13 gigs

Right, what’s the next fest, OxJam?

Music Monday: Birmingham Vintage Fair

Naked Remedy

All photos by fotograbs@gmail.com

I’ve spent weeks looking; this is one area that I wouldn’t compromise. For me, to give BVF a festival vibe, the music had to be at the centre of it and not just any band but one that accentuated the 1970s vibe. In the last two months I have been to every gig early to catch the support bands. After contacting every promoter, band, radio presenter, music college and music fan, I have not one but two PERFECT bands.

Naked Remedy to me represented the turn of the decade and I love every minute of their set. They’re a popular live band and had gigs either side of this event so I’m lucky not just to have them perform but they sure set the tone for the day too and not just with the psychedelic backdrop! I visibly saw people stop what they were doing as the energy poured out from the stage and there was a lot of noise from three people. Oh and a drummer who sings and converses with the crowd – who new!

Naked RemedyNaked Remedy    

    

In addition, the Naked Remedy family are a great bunch of guys and it’s a joy to have met them. They have earned more fans from the BVF audience and I for one am so looking forward to seeing them again. And I love that I like a band that gig a lot!

 
 
 
Dakesis

Hair, there, everywhere

                                                        If Naked Remedy started around 1970, Dakesis moved along the decade perfectly. Instead of their progressive metal set, they entertained a delighted audience with some classic rock covers of which the highlights for me are ‘Rebel Rebel’ and of course, ‘20th Century Boy’. I was delighted when I saw this in their set list as the track had become a point of reference for me when searching for the band. Gemma and the band are a pleasure to work with and on stage, they tick every box outside the fantastic set; guitar solos, hair, theatrics, everything I expect and then some. I cannot wait to see their full set.

From an audience perspective, both bands fitted in perfectly. From an organiser’s point of view, they both saved and made the day. LOVE

Dakesis

So that’s two more bands added to the ‘must see every time they play Birmingham’ list. HAPPY.

Adventures in Birmingham: live music – Adam Ant

O2 June 1st 2011

(Part of my limited live music series; 12 bands in 8 days)

I would have gone anyway but this was a birthday treat for my best friend, who’s Mum took her to see Adam Ant about 30 years ago. It’s a rarity for us to both go to a gig together anyway as although I like every kind of music, I prefer seeing thrashing guitars live and BF on the hand is more of a soul girl. But we both agree on Adam Ant.

The time I spend not watching the two support bands (one OK, the second good) was spent watching the mostly tribal audience:

Most eye catching are the Prince Charming girls, dressed in their regency finery with lots of layers, lots of lace and of course the makeup.

There were a few people who had the Prince Charming stripes but regrettably none with the full pirate gear.

Coming slightly more up to date, there were goatees, bandanas and leather fingerless gloves and going right back there were a few 50 year old punks although fortunately (or unfortunately), no safety pins, kilts or Mohicans.

What every single person in the sold out O2 had in common is that we are just pleased to see him. Pleased to see him back to health and back on stage. It appears he has good people around him as he has got his act together and is in good spirits, making a mockery of anti-depression pills. 30 years ago the message may have been ‘don’t do drugs’!

His support network has got him along the right track as far as the set list is concerned too; he gave the audience what he wanted, a greatest hits. Stand & Deliver bought the house down; ‘…and then I jumped out of a window and everything changed’, Ant Music did it for me as did my favourite Ant track, ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ which stands out now as it did then and Prince Charming was kept as the encore.

Thankfully he had a fabulous tall hat on as that’s the only way I could re-adjust my standing and follow him around the stage. It’s inconceivable that he walked on in jeans and a t-shirt and although he didn’t jump up and down like the Boss (60) or the running across the stage of Mr Le Bon (52), Adam Ant sure put on a fantastic show and the audience reacted to every move, every remark (especially about X Factor stars and the ilk who play stadiums after two hit singles and he’s playing the O2 Academy after over 30 years of working) and every long loved track.

Now the hope is he records some new stuff and gets some great collaborators to work with to get him back into swing.

More on Adam Ant

Adventures in Birmingham: live music – This Burning Age

The Actress & Bishop June 4th 2011

So finally I get to see This Burning Age for real 

The first introduction to them was via one of the best things in Birmingham, Live Music Friday at Urban Coffee Co. This was an especially devised acoustic set so it’s difficult to imagine what they describe as ‘electro rock’ sounds like in a conventional music venue.  It’s brave of any band of this genre to adapt their set to a small (tiny) coffee shop, especially without knowing if anyone in the audience will like their customary music.

As it happens, at least two of us do. 

I would have seen them again anyway, just for the sake of supporting local bands, but after looking up a couple of their tracks when I get home, the next thing I do is check my schedule and tell my friends.

Not just because the music sounds good but also because they seem like nice boys (that could end up being their tag line, “This Burning Age, they seem like nice boys”). I feel I ought to be sharing them. So it doesn’t take much to persuade a seven hardcore live music fans to make it to The Actress last Saturday. 

I have to say it was a great value as we saw the tuneful Faye Bagley and the toe tapping Ask Alfie (yes Mike Skinner-ish but everyone wants to be somebody) but I don’t recall the 3rd band as much, as by now, I just want to see the main attraction!

My friend’s sister who was visiting for the weekend and knew nothing about the band gave me the best quote of the night, ‘I know they’re going to be good just by watching them set-up.’ 

But they weren’t good, they were FANTASTIC! As soon as they started, I thought to myself, ‘this is more like it.’ I couldn’t say it aloud of course as no-one would have heard me, which is exactly how it should be.

The audience – and us especially – immediately take to them. Their sheer professionalism as soon as they start is immense; they all work so hard and are so in tune (ahem) with each other; there is just no let up.  

Between the five personalities on stage, it’s difficult to know who to focus on, the answer is – all of them! The on stage energy is explosive and it’s impossible to think of anything else; everyday life is momentarily stopped as you’re transported into the ‘This Burning Age’ world.

The one friend who, who was at the acoustic gig particularly fixated on Tim Wilson’s drumming so she may be picking up the drum kit again – in a manner of speaking. 

I’m already starting to recognise tracks and love hearing the regular arrangement of ‘Stronger, Faster, Fitter’ and fittingly, the set ends as the album does with the beautiful ‘Honey.’ It’s only afterwards I learn this is relatively new line-up and yet they all bond like they are childhood friends on stage.

So I’m thrilled that this time I managed to get a CD (I know, so retro) which I listened to in its entirety the next day. More on that here

LOVE LOVE LOVE!

Come and see the band at the Hare & Hounds on 30th June when I’ll be leaving the sanctity of B5 once again, the number 50 bus is fast becoming my friend.

Adventures in Birmingham: The Whiskey Syndicate – live music

The Old Wharf, Digbeth.

I don’t know about you but I’m always a little anxious when seeing someone I knows’ efforts for the first time. I was full of trepidation recently when I read my friend’s first novel but not only did I like it, I loved it.

So now I am quietly confident that the friends I drag – OK they come willingly, they really do – will enjoy the much anticipated Birmingham gig of The Whiskey Syndicate. Having been waiting for bassist, @roxyrich to announce a city gig via Twitter for seemingly months, I resist the urge to listen to any of their tracks beforehand, figuring I’m going regardless and live music is always a good thing after all.

But then I succumb and have a little listen via the website, just to test the decibel level after seeing a quote that have them as ‘the heaviest band in the world’. I thought that was AC/DC (or, in my personal experience the Cult, way back when) but after questioning, I have a new quote ‘reasonably loud’ – which is the best description ever!!! I would have got T-shirts made with that on if I had the time.

There are three bands to witness before TWS come on, one of them the excellent Jackpikewith a distinct Green Day influence I feel, walked through and chatted to the audience afterwards. You know I love a band with decent customer service skills so this is another to add to the ‘one’s to watch out for’ list.

Then very late into the evening, The Whiskey Syndicate come on and takeover the room, in every sense. As soon as they open with ‘Stick or Twisted’ my relief is immediate and I stop thinking ‘I hope my mates like this’ to ‘they are going to blow us away’. These guys are seasoned pros and ooze confidence with their music, ability and stage presence. They fill the stage (literally, it’s a small stage but they fill it) and if I’m not already convinced, I am when they throw in a couple of covers; It takes a brave man to do try any Led Zeppelin but my mind is made up when they achieve a slick version of T- Rex’s ‘20th Century Boy’.

You know I dislike comparing but if I must, there is a satisfactory amount of AC/DC in the mix which is always a good thing! As TWS say themselves, ‘100% rock n roll’; what’s not to like?

Why they are unsigned is a mystery, they should be playing at the O2 Academy at the very least and supporting huge arena rock acts to boot. I look forward to the day I say ‘I saw them when’ but in the meantime, I’ll take every opportunity to see them again in any size venue.

If you have an ounce of taste in you, do your musical kaleidoscope a favour and go see them, immediately if not sooner.

9/10

Likelihood of seeing again 10/10

The Whiskey Syndicate website

Live Music Friday – This Burning Age

Yes I know, I said I wouldn’t write about local bands on here again.

Last time, despite me saying I’d enjoyed the gig, that I went out of my way to leave my beloved B5 enclosure to get to Moseley upon a recommendation and that my only point was that I wished they’d done some of their own material, I had so much ‘disapproval’ for the post – not from the band – I had to delete it!

I know that won’t happen with This Burning Age as 1. They seem like well bought-up boys and 2. Their parents weren’t at the gig.

So to start with, I don’t necessarily review music in the traditional sense, I just say what I like and try to omit anything negative. After all, I was bought up not to open my mouth – or the laptop – if I haven’t got anything nice to say.

As it turns out, it’s all positive.

Firstly, I’m grateful for Urban Coffee Co for starting Live Music Fridays (yes, I know I begged for live music when they first opened) and will always be there with as many people as I can drag – I mean invite –on the first Friday of every month.

Then I’m grateful my train got me back in time from London, as my meeting changed to Friday (how rude) and I had to spend a fortune on a peak time ticket but its worth it.

I’m pleased that the band were a little late starting as I only dashed in just before 7pm and it was great to catch up with the girls first as I haven’t seen them in a while, what with April being full of the Vancouver Adventure.

Acoustic

This Burning Age are fab. Knowing that they are more ‘lively’ ordinarily, I spend most of the time during their acoustic set trying to imagine how the tracks sound with the proverbial thrashing electric guitars and drums. I’m quite taken with the electronic drum thingamygy; I think it will fit well in my kitchen, just so the room is used for something other than making coffee and storing cake.

The music, which (and this is why I dislike like writing about music despite it being my greatest love – the inevitable comparisons) has  the angst of Nirvana, the theatrics of Muse mixed with good humour in between. What impresses me is the ‘customer service’. It takes something to relate to a small audience who are new to the band and in an unusual venue. I love live music anywhere but in a coffee shop, the gig needs to be a little more chilled out and This Burning Age got this down perfectly; except for not having any CDs to sell us!

We all loved the gig and a couple of us went home and looked up more of the band’s actual music.

I’m looking forward to 4th June at my local Actress & Bishop, where I hope the band remembers copies of their CDs(!) With any luck, I’ll convince a few people to come out all the way to B14 no less, for the gig at the Hare & Hounds on the 30th. I’ve been in Birmingham two years and have still to visit this renowned venue; shame on me.

End Game – Acoustic Gig – Urban Coffee Co. – 06-05-11 from This Burning Age on Vimeo.