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    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*

    Music and Movies

    Give It A Name Introduces

    19th May 2008
    Birmingham Carling Academy 2

    Fresh off the back of the Give It A Name festival, Four Year Strong, Meg and Dia, The Colour Fred and Mayday Parade were on a mission to gain further fans on a string of revolving-headliner tour dates.

    Birmingham saw Four Year Strong opening the show with headline being granted to Mayday Parade. It’s a disappointing decision as Four Year Strong’s fantastic blend of pop-punk and hardcore was well received at GIAN and the majority of the crowd seem to be here for them. Despite sound difficulties, which saw mics being pitched at three different volumes, the crowd fully integrated into the sound as back vocalists. Frenetic and fast-paced, they’re a fantastic opener and their confirmation as support to a tour in December is welcomed news.

    Contrasting the energy of FYS was Meg and Dia, a two piece clearly out of place amongst the line-up. The strong female vocals are powerful, but nestled amongst three other bands that rely heavily on volume, their sound is easily ignored. Next up was The Colour Fred, fronted unsurprisingly by Fred Masc who seemed to spend more time talking about how he had been on this very stage with his old band, Taking Back Sunday. TCF’s sound was better fitted to the Academy’s stage than an arena, but still didn’t quite pack the punch of the first band. The lengthy tales of his former band and relatively weak sound bored the remaining crowd, many of whom had left after Four Year Strong.

    I left towards the end of The Colour Fred’s set, bored and tired from a weekend spent at All Tomorrow’s Parties, but safe in the knowledge that if the GIAN festival was anything to go by, I’d already seen the band of the night – Four Year Strong.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog*

    Music and Movies

    Give It A Name Festival 2008

    Sheffield Hallam Arena
    10-11 May

    GIAN this year was interesting. I’d originally agreed to go because of the awesome time I had last year and I think had the 2007 line-up been the one from this years, I would never have gone in the first place. For me, it was uninspiring and incredibly lacking. The headliners were a bad choice, the range of bands was mediocre and the venue and atmosphere was entirely uneventful.

    Paramore and 30 Seconds to Mars as headliners? Over Glassjaw and Finch/Alkaline Trio? I’m not a musical snob by any means, but there is something intrinsically wrong about having well established bands with loyal fans who will brave emo festivals lower on the bill than flash-in-the-pan acts. Even believing that the newer bands will bring the crowds (which they didn’t, if the walk outs were anything to go by), the back catalogues of the respective bands should have had more time on stage than the newer bands with little material. All three of the bands did fine jobs of running through some of their songs, but really could have done more stage time. Paramore and Plain White T’s were fun and their singles are catchy, but headlining over Glassjaw and Finch/Alk3 is just wrong. 30STM are a band who seem to have stolen the theatrics of My Chemical Romance and a fairly ill reaching sound, whose appeal seems to be more to the generic teenage-angst than any real talent.

    It wasn’t just the bands themselves, the sound output was awful. Even for some of the better bands, the bass and drum output was too loud (almost every band, notably Glassjaw) and several mics were too low (Four Year Strong and Alkaline Trio). If anything this was the most disappointing, because it made bands that were new or relatively so to the UK sound worse than they should -Mayday Parade‘s sound seemed patchy. Even by the second day this wasn’t completely fixed and generally the sound quality was poor – not something you expect from an indoor music festival.

    The music wasn’t all bad, there were some fantastic highlights. Some of the bands everyone are talking about; All Time Low and Four Year Strong were stunning. The organisers did a great disservice putting Four Year Strong so low down on the bill and putting them on stage early. Lucky they put on a brilliant performance, even with the sound difficulties – the screaming was near impossible to hear, but the overall quality of the band was in place. Hopefully they will have apt chance to prove this on the GIAN Intro tour. All Time Low had a professionalism about them and a confidence on stage that far surpassed their experience. Their sound was spot on and they clearly had already some dedicated fans in the enthusiastic crowd. It wouldn’t surprise me if they’re back in a few years on the main stage.

    The most unanticipated gem of the festival has to go to MC Lars. Backed up by Failsafe, they were an unstoppable force of utter fun, mocking the emo genre in an intelligent manner (Chiodos take note) and engaging the audience entirely unexpectedly. Their sample of Iggy Pop, Piebald and Supergrass were inspired and if they don’t come away with a lot more fans than before I’d be shocked. It was just a shame Failsafe as themselves didn’t get a slot, or infact any British acts.

    All in all Give It A Name 2008 will go down as a loss. The atmosphere in Sheffield was devoid, the lack of pass-outs on arguably one of the hottest weekends in May was ill thought out and saw the outdoor smoking area overrun by people who just wanted somewhere to hang out that wasn’t a corridor. The organisers of GIAN still haven’t understood that it takes more than the music to make a festival and the lack of entertainment between bands and/or for people who don’t like the bands on offer is really a let down. With the genre being so popular their should be a number of companies who would relish a stand at this festival, a proper signing tent and even an acoustic stage would give this festival some of the spirit it sorely lacks. More importantly it needs to step up the music this year. Last year had such an abundance of heavyweights- Brand New, New Found Glory, Jimmy Eat World and AFI to name but a few. This year even the music couldn’t substitute for the fact that this festival is less of a feast and cashing in on emo’s new found fame.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog*