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    Music and Movies

    Birmingham Academy is moving

    Birmingham’s Academy is finally moving. They’ve been threatening this since I started secondary school back in 1996, but it’s finally going off to the old Dome II just off from Smallbrook Queensway to some place apparently called Horse Fair. Editors play the opening night on 10th September.

    This is fantastic news. The current Academy really isn’t fit for purpose. The main room is fairly lacking in atmosphere and the two smaller rooms have incredibly bad views if you’re any further than five people back. Hopefully the new main room will have that same sense of purpose as the Wolverhampton Civic, where the stage is viewable from anywhere within the room and feels like a venue for live music – if a little too mainstream.

    The location isn’t ideal though. Sure, it’s better for students living in Selly Oak (and using the 60’s buses) but worse for the general public as it seems further out from the core city centre and public transport – particularly those coming from out of town needing the train or bus stations. And last time I was around there the pedestrian access seemed lacking, which is concerning given the amount of traffic around that area and the level of drunk people from club nights.

    But I am slightly disappointed that the new academy is essentially replacing like for like and there are no extra venues to match, say, the Manchester Academy.  There is a perception that bands get too big for the B’ham Academy but too small for the NEC/NIA and so go to Wolverhampton. In fact the Civic is the same size as the largest Academy room, the Wulfrun holds 1134 and the Little Civic holds 140. Whereas the Academy 2, old and new, holds 600 (the current one can be reduced to 400) and the Academy 3 currently holds 200 with the newer one holding 250.  So that can’t be the case, but it feels like it.

    The Wolverhampton venues also have the added advantage of being separate venues so three bands can play at once. There rarely seems to be more than one gig hapening at the current academy on an evening and when there is it seems like a real hassle. Something which doesn’t occur in Manchester or Liverpool’s Academys. Hopefully this is something they’ll rectify for the new Academy so more established bands will play in Birmingham instead of Wolves!

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

    Music and Movies

    All Tomorrow’s Parties 2009 – Breeders

    ATP was, as expected, fantastic and I had one up on last years in that I’d actually seen one of the bands and dragged everyone to see the Bronx. They were fantastic and seemed better than when I saw them before.  And their side project Mariachi el Bronx were surprisingly hilarious too – who knew a punk band could play traditional Mexican music?!

    Beccy had seen Whispertown 2000 in America so we had to see them and they were really enjoyable.  A little twee (bluegrass-country stuff) and the lead singer was dangerously close to flashing, but they were fun.  On the last song the drummer (who was playing guitar at the time) and bassist both mimed into missing mics whilst the two other members of the band sung.  Hilarious.  We spotted the drummer and bassist in the crowd for CSS later who seemed to be having an awesome time.

    Kimya Dawson was another highlight. Her children’s songs were hilarious and the songs from Juno were a big hit.  But not nearly as much as her group hug at the end of her set where she had the whole audience hold hands, wind in and hug.  I’m not sure it’s possible to explain how awesome it was to experience, but it was a thing to behold.

    Other bands I remembered seeing…
    •    Teenage Fanclub attracted the older people in the audience and were enjoyed as background to dinner from Burger King.
    •    Melt Banana seemed frenetically fun but not really to everyone’s taste as friends wanted to leave half way though – which was a shame
    •    The Breeders were also good, even if Beccy and I spent most of it playing on the 2p machines at the back.
    •    Bon Iver’s set didn’t feel like anything spectacular but the music was nice, so I enjoyed it sat on the floor at the back.  
    •    Yann Tierson was fun to watch and had a man on stage reading from a book.
    •    Blood Red Shoes seemed like the usual shouty indie.
    •    CSS were incredibly fun and decorated the stage with balloons that looked amazing.
    •    Tricky threw some god-like moves, was impressive and everyone seemed to enjoy it.
    •    Zach Hill’s drummer was clearly accomplished but got a bit dull after a while.
    •    Some other bands who’ve all melted into one – woops

    Other highlights included the aforementioned 2p machines, the psychedelic carpet (again), crazy dancers, watching other people in the rain, converse parties, gnomes tripping on LSD at a funeral, sarcastic signs, dancing security guards singing ‘stop in the name…’ and checked-shirt spotting.

    Thoroughly enjoyed the world’s most polite festival ever and looking forward to going back to next years!

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

    Music and Movies

    John Mayer gig at the Birmingham Academy 24/6/08

    24th June 2008
    Birmingham Carling Academy

    John Mayer is relatively unknown in this country, or was before his love-life became the interest of tabloids. His bluesy acoustic-rock is effortlessly accessible and coupled with the Santana gig; it was great to see two legends in one week.

    British singer-songwriter Jack McManus is an inspired choice for support act. His pleasant piano-centric songs are light and breezy and highlight the pop elements of Mayer’s own guitar driven back-catalogue, providing a good set up for the main act.

    Mayer’s set opens with ‘Belief’ extended with a Bluesy ending tainted by misplaced clapping. Like Santana, Mayer descends into jamming on various songs, but adds to the end of his songs rather than a series of instrumentals. The best example of which is on ‘Slow Dancing in a Burning Room’ which improves the lamenting sadness of the song more so than the original.

    The biggest cheers are for his earlier works, where Mayer is most honest about its contents explaining he wrote Room for Squares when he didn’t know what was going on and how he distanced himself from his older music in order to turn around, look at it and realise how much he enjoyed it – relating to ‘Welcome to the Real World’, ‘Why Georgia’ and ‘Great Indoors’. Yet notably missing was the teenage favourite ‘Your Body Is A Wonderland’.

    Mayer’s performance is real, honest and entirely a pleasure to watch. His accessibility as a person as well as a musician make his show more than a guy and his guitar, but rather an understanding of what makes his music.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog*

    Music and Movies

    Say Anything gig at the Birmingham Barfly

    Birmingham Barfly
    9th June 2008

    Real life often gets in the way of going to gigs and when it does it’s annoying. What’s more annoying is when you spend more time travelling to and from a show than the band plays on stage. Unfortunately for me, tonight was one of those nights. I spent close to two hours travelling to and from the Say Anything show, thanks to funny train timetables and Say Anything, well they played seven songs.

    I walked in as they were beginning “i can’t get laid in this town…” and the sound seemed spot on. Front-man Max Bemis’s unique singing voice seemed on fine form, but I found out afterwards that he was sick. The crowd were definitely enthused and intense and sung along, cheering loudly for “buy your own flowers, you make me feel the worlds not dead”, which Bemis sung solo.

    Still when the rest of the tour saw shows that lasted at least an hour, short even for most sets, hearing under 45-minutes of music felt like a bit of a slap in the face. The six and a half songs I heard by Say Anything were a fine reflection of the music they produce in a studio, but for such a short time on stage I have to wonder whether it was worth it at all.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog*

    Music and Movies

    Weakerthans at the Birmingham Barfly 1/6/08

    1st June 2008
    Birmingham Barfly

    Since attending the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Minehead I have a new found understanding and confidence to go watch a band I’ve never heard much of before and not feel like a complete fraud for being there. Luckily this lesson was learnt in time for The Weakerthans’ Birmingham show. Not having enough time to fully digest the acquired albums, I was able to stand and just listen to the set and appreciate the musical aesthetic, without worrying that I didn’t know the words of the songs.

    This does however make writing a review of the show difficult, as my ability to remember any of the names of the songs near impossible. However the accessible and well crafted Weakerthan’s sound isn’t intimidating and genuinely enthused me to give their studio efforts more time.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog*

    Music and Movies

    Cute Is What We Aim For + Boys Like Girls at the Birmingham Academy 31/3/08

    31st May 2008
    Birmingham Carling Academy 2

    Originally billed as a Cute Is What We Aim For show, headliners Boys Like Girls are back four months after supporting Plain White T’s. We The Kings complete the trio of bands which typify the emo sound storming pubescent ears everywhere. WTK play a tight set and clearly know what they’re doing, even if their sound isn’t new–‘Stay Young’ sounds very much like Yellowcard and The Ataris.

    It’s an odd choice to relegate Cute Is What We Aim For to main support, considering they release an album soon. Late to the tour due to a mislaid passport, lead singer Shaant is on fine form tonight with boundless energy. The set itself integrates new songs with old, almost match-for-match. Ending with “i may be ugly…” Shaant informs the crowd he lost his voice last time he sung it here, and the crowd helped him out – which they’re more than happy to do again.

    Boys Like Girls seem to garner less enthusiasm than CIWWAF, and play several songs from their set in January. The front-man is confident to the point of cocky and spitting into the crowd, he seems to lose some favour. However his amazement that he’s five thousand miles from home and still has people singing his songs does garner some of the favour back. Though the beginning of the set is relatively upbeat ‘Soundtrack to my Summer’ a Dashboard Confessional-esque song tones down the pace, but not the quality.

    With both Cute Is What We Aim For and Boys Like Girls back in the autumn, it’s good to know both bands have a solid fan base and a solid sound. It’s not a show that broke any boundaries musically, but with three solid bands it suggests a continuation of the genre for a while yet.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog*