Adventures in Birmingham: Live music at Six Eight Kafé

Those of you who know me on Twitter will have noticed I’ve been to every single Live Music Friday evening at Urban Coffee Co but now I’m delighted there’s a second coffee house to embrace one of life’s pleasures.

I’ve loved live music in coffee shops ever since I first saw a man and a guitar at a late night coffee shop in NYC in 2000 and have been trying to recapture the experience ever since. Whilst popular in America, I used to go to listen to music every Sunday in New York, the first I’d seen in the UK (I’m sure there have been others) was at Urban‘s first location. It’s not just about having someone play but the right type of ‘coffee shop’ music.

Country, folk and jazz all lend themselves to the acoustic vibe that works best. Many of us loved the gypsy/jazz band (I don’t know the name, the band didn’t carry any cards!) we saw at Six Eight Kafe on their first birthday so we begged the management to run more candle-lit nights in their gorgeously dark basement.

Last Wednesday was the first of those nights when we were treated to more live music. The first band had an excellent acoustic set up and performed a mix of original material with covers and harmonious vocals. There is something special about going to events in a dimly lit room. Perhaps because it smacks of the illicitism of the prohibition era and so feels like we’ve been invited to an exclusive underground event.

This and the amazing coffee that the Six Eight coffee gods seem to produce every time makes it an essential addition to the Birmingham calendar.

Coffee & music, two of my favourite things; more please.

Adventures in Birmingham – Entertainment Heritage Walk

Entertainment Heritage Walk

I’ve lost count of how many ‘heritage walks’ I’ve now completed with the knowledgeable and witty Mr Ian Braisby but all have been enlightening and entertaining. The latest, on a sunny Sunday afternoon is to learn about Birmingham’s entertainment heritage.

Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Slade seemed to have played everywhere but we discover the old home of Snackerie. This is where bands in the 60s bands consumed  their pre and post gig unhealthy snacks and generally gossiped about evil promoters I suspect. Evidently a good place to pick up extra last minute gig bookings too!

I learn about Edward Fewtrell, ‘Mr Clubland’ from my earliest memories of my first time in Birmingham. I certainly recall a visit or two to Edwards bar around that time and the reputation Mr Fewtrell had. It’s interesting to hear of the story about an early Texas gig when they played at an Edwards club with a backdrop of a water leak! More so, I didn’t realise Edwards venues went back as far as the 1970s and that where Gala bingo behind New Street station is, was an upmarket cabaret style venue that hosted Tom Jones. Apparently it didn’t work in the early 1970s but with Ronnie Scott’s long gone, I’d love something like that in the city now.

On the theatre side Birmingham’s Theatre Royal on New Street (where Boots is now) is long gone but the gorgeous Hippodrome is flourishing and we learn of Laurence Olivier’s earliest performances at the still standing (old) Birmingham Rep.

We all know the history of the scrumptious once again, Electric being the oldest working cinema in the UK but did you know that the Cannon, formerly the Futurist around the corner was the first to have ‘talkies’? And that where Piccadilly Arcade is now was the Picture House and there was also the ABC cinema on New Street?

Crossroads is well known to have been filmed in Birmingham and we learn there was a famous wedding scene filmed at Birmingham cathedral that not only stopped traffic but received 22 million viewers – beat that x-Craptor! Later, TisWas was filmed in Birmingham launching the mainstream careers of Chris Tarrant (but why does he have a Broad Street star?!) and the eternally brilliant Lenny Henry. I learn my favourite building in Birmingham, the Alpha Tower at the edge of Broad Street was built for ATV, before it became Central Television. Nowadays all TV talk is of the Hustle being filmed on my doorstep whilst pretending it’s in London.

Discovering Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show came to New Street is indeed mind blowing but it’s two hours and towards the end of the tour when we get to Duran Duran, the reason for my coming to Brum in the first place. They are mentioned of course when we get to Broad Street, home of the Rum Runner Club where they first rehearsed and were subsequently managed by the owners.

Incidentally, the same place also hosted Dexy’s Midnight Runners and UB40 in the early years.

Who knew? There is so much more, book in on a tour here

For more information  www.midlandsdiscoverytours.co.uk  or chat on Twitter @ianbraisby or follow @MidsDiscovery

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: V is for Luther Vandross

I’ve been through the alphabet twice now, this time ending with the sublime talent that was Luther Vandross. Inspiration to many, loved by all.

So many to choose from:

1. Never Too Much – an all time classic

2. Give Me The Reason 

3. Stop to Love

4. So Amazing

5. Dance with My Father – will always be emotional as it was the last single whilst he was alive

More Luther Vandross here

This Burning Age – A Muzzle for the Masses (CD)

So finally I get hold of this CD……

Having seen the band perform acoustically at Urban Coffee and then live at The Actress & Bishop hearing the CD is the last vital piece.

Just like at the proper live gig I recognised a few tracks from the acoustic set, I recognise a lot of these tracks and in particularly, Stronger, Faster, Fitter and the beautiful album closer, Honey are already lodged in my brain.

The first listen is an absolute treat on an early Sunday afternoon but by the end, I just have to sit down and give listening to this my 100%.

The second listen sees me stop in my tracks; literally, I let the coffee go cold and the phone go unanswered and the little red flashing light is ignored. How can there be this much talent right here on this one debut album?!

Influence wise, I hear Bowie (although that should have been bleeding obvious from the off) which leads me on to Bauhaus which leads me on to Muse. Otherwise, I can’t/won’t define them but if they’re really are only two types of music, file this album in ‘good’, right at the top.

NB If you know me, you know I don’t like to know too much about the band/film before I write about it so have now looked up their influences. Bowie is indeed right at the top (but then he’s influenced EVERYONE) followed by Muse, Gary Numan, Joy Division, New Order, The Cure and rather delightfully The Pet Shop Boys. Who doesn’t love the PSB!

LOVE LOVE LOVE

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.