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    Birmingham, Music

    Stumbling across live music

    StopStop_Birmingham

    I love living in a city for so many reasons, but one of which is the richness of live street art and music that you can stumble across – sometimes it’s part of a festival and sometimes it’s just because.  Last night whilst I was ambling around the city centre, trying to decide what I should do for dinner, I spotted three people setting up equipment for a gig.  It’s not uncommon to see people playing around this area in Birmingham, but usually it’s a soloist with maybe a single amp, mic and possibly a guitar; a drum kit and enough kit for a full gig is quite unusual.  That, and the make up of some of the band, made me want to stick around to find out more.  Plus, I still hadn’t decided what to have for tea.

    Unsurprisingly it turned out they were a rock band, and the man in front of me was right in his assertion they looked like they were going to be worth sticking around for. Once they’d told the group of bemused onlookers who they were, I did a quick online search and turns out StOp,sToP! have quite the following. I stuck around for a few songs, ignoring my rumbling tummy, and thoroughly enjoyed their rendition of Proud Mary in particular.

    Stop Stop Birmingham 2

    In a week when terrible things have happened in our fellow second city, armed police patrol the streets and trains, we’re told trauma centres are on high alert, and the country’s threat level is raised to critical, a rock band plays a free gig in Birmingham city centre. It feels ridiculous and defiant, and as the crowd sung and danced along, it felt like the right.

    Music

    Stumbling across acoustic gems: Koji and Into It Over It

    I love it when a gig surprises you.

    A few weeks ago I went to see Koji and Into It Over It on the Birmingham leg of their UK tour at the Wagon and Horses.  It was the first time I’ve been there even though I’d been meaning to go for ages.  It’s a pretty cool place – looks a bit like an old man pub, but the function room (“out the back and up the fire escape” was how it was described to me) plays host to a load of punk, hardcore and metal type stuff on a regular basis.  Which I’ve kinda been missing since moving back to Brum.

    Anyway this gig wasn’t really that kind of show.  Well a couple of the bands were, but the two main acts were delightfully acoustic, which I have to admit now I really wasn’t expecting.  But it was a great surprise.

    First of the main act was Koji.  His original stuff was stunning, I picked up a CD and its been a delightful distraction to rush hour traffic on the way home from home.  But one of my favourite songs on the night was his cover of Ted Leo/Pharmacists’s Biomusicology.  I found a copy of youtube;

    I adored what became the audience participation part; “All in all we cannot stop singing we cannot start sinking, we swim until it ends.  They may kill and we may be parted, but we will never be broken hearted”.  I’d not heard the original before, but koji’s version has to have been one of the best ways to be introduced to the song.  Just beautiful.

    And Into It Over It was also pretty brilliant too.  Would highly recommend checking out both guys’ music, I know I’ll be buying more of it soon.

    Music

    Jimmy Eat World, HMV Forum, 22/6/11

    HMV Forum, London
    22nd June 2011

    Jimmy Eat World

    I’ve been trying to write a review of the Jimmy Eat World gig I went to last week but struggling.  I’ve written several attempts, but they just come off too gushing.  So, rather than try and write a straight up review, here’s my thoughts on the two albums they played in full at the gig (which was to celebrate the ten year anniversary of Bleed American being released) and the gig itself.

    I found Jimmy Eat World through Bleed American back in 2001 and along with its follow up Futures, are two of their best albums.  For some quirk, I’ve found that back catalogues never really connect as much as the gateway and subsequent albums from most bands.   So whilst I enjoy Clarity as an album, I just don’t have the affection for it that I do for Bleed American and albums since.

    That said, I do enjoy Clarity, but I just don’t identify with it as much as I do Bleed American.  It’s got some great songs.  But Lucky Denver Mint’s “You’re not bigger than this, not better why can’t you learn?” just doesn’t have the optimism that I come to expect from Jimmy, despite being a great song.  Goodbye Sky Harbour, 12.23.1995 and A Sunday all just seem to be lyrically filled with subjects not sure of themselves, but are beautifully written.  So it seemed fitting that the gig had no support band, as Clarity to felt like it took that place in the show.  The crowd knew the words, enjoyed the songs, but it felt very much like the audience got to Clarity after buying the Bleed American, so the passion and love for the songs in the first half of the show weren’t as intense at the second half.  Or maybe its just because the album itself is more relaxed, but either way performance wise, they were top notch.

    It’s probably worth mentioning that I genuinely think Bleed American is a tremendous album.  There is a great mix of upbeat, powerful anthems that most bands could only ever wish to write.  The Middle, Sweetness and A Praise Chorus are great fast-paced songs.  “I’m on my feet I’m on the floor I’m good to go, now all I need is just to hear a song I know” might be the lyrics of A Praise Chorus, but it sums up most of that album; they’re songs that once they’re on my ipod will make me run harder at the gym.  And the ones it doesn’t are the kind of slower songs which shock you into stillness with their beauty.  “A song for a heart so big God wouldn’t let it live” gets me every time I hear Hear You Me, it’s truly a captivating song.  In fact the whole album has some great lyrics, like the rousing speeches of an optimist, with lyrics which beg to be quoted in times when you’re just not that sure of yourself.  It’s a perfect album for people finding their way in life – from teenage years to mid-twenties.

    And at the show last week could you feel the intensity people hold for that album.  As the band came on for the second set of the night the backing screen went down, lighting was revealed and the change in atmosphere was palpable.  The crowd moved more for the more upbeat songs, but there was none of the obnoxiousness usually found at gigs.  Even though they were playing their hit songs, this was a show for people who adore the band and you got the feeling it was mutual, this really was a celebratory show.

    Rounding off the night with a four song encore, one of which was the superb song 23, the gig was as near to perfect as it could get.  I only hope that in three years we get to see a full run through of Futures.  And if it was a Bleed American and Futures show, that would, for me, be heaven.

    Music

    Mystery Jets interview – Chevrolet Spark Unscheduled Tour, 6 May 2010

    Birmingham won a coveted second spot on the Chevrolet Spark Unscheduled Tour contest to see the Mystery Jets head to the Custard Factory last Thursday (aka Election Day) in support of their upcoming album, Serotonin.

    Space 2 in the Custard Factory is a fairly intimate venue, holding around 200 people, and is the perfect place to showcase the Mystery Jets new songs from Serotonin (out in July) and welcomes them back into touring the UK. The new album seems less pop, more dance influenced and looks to be aiming for the hallowed arena of a Coldplay concert. Just with more fun.

    Older songs such as Young Love and Hideaway get the biggest reception of the night, which is hardly surprising. But the audience lap up the newer stuff too, some of which has been showcased on their MySpace beforehand but mostly unheard.

    Earlier in the day I caught up with William and Kapil from the band…

    How would you describe your sound?
    William: it’s pop music with a whole multitude of different influences from psychedelic music to dance music.  I wouldn’t describe it, it’s hard to talk about your own music – go and listen to it.

    Do you have any non-music influences?
    William: Novels and books make it into our songs.  A book called Lorna Doone is the title of one of our songs.  A book some of us were reading a year of two ago called The Fountainhead was a big influence in how we approached some of our song writing.  All that definitely finds its way in.

    How did you get involved in the Spark Unscheduled tour?
    William: Chevrolet approached us and propositioned us.  It sounded like a really great way of coming back and doing gigs in England, because we haven’t released anything for a couple of years and we didn’t really tour the UK last year.  We did a few festivals but mainly we were out the country. And it seemed like a really nice idea to come to places like Birmingham and play quite intimate venues.

    Did the pop-up idea of the tour interest you?
    William: It’s a really exciting way of doing a gig when people don’t really know exactly where or when it’s going to be.  It just kinda appears.  The more people that vote for the gig to be in Birmingham, then the more chance it has of happening.

    I really wanted to do one in Cornwall because there’s an outdoor theatre right on the sea.  Like a kind of mini amphitheatre made out of stone, which is just incredible.  They do Shakespeare there in the summer.  It wasn’t possible on this tour, but we hope to do something there some point – maybe something acoustic.

    If you could be any other artist, who would you be?
    William: I don’t know – maybe Robert Wyatt or Ray Davis.  But I only really like Ray Davis’s music from about 1965-74.  He’s just a really great songwriter, the best, in my opinion.  He didn’t necessarily go off and do really wild things, some people are more innovative.

    On a similar note, you mentioned the All Tomorrows Parties festivals in another interview.  Who would you pick to play at yours?
    William: I think is really cool when bands reform just to play their best album and do it in its entirety.  I always think that’s great.  I’d get Talk Talk to reform and do Spirit of Eden and The Meat Puppets to do Mirage.  All sorts of things really – Robert Wyatt on there.

    The new album, Serotonin, is it a similar to older album?
    William: I think it’s quite a departure, our new record.  It’s really big sounding and wide screen.  It’s filmic and epic.
    Kapil: And elegant as well.
    William: Yeah, I think there’s a kind of elegance to it.  It’s just such a mixture; every song is different and quite drastically as well.
    Kapil: I do think there are elements of our first record there.
    William: Yeah, it’s almost like a marriage of the first and second albums.

    Can you explain the significance of the title?
    William: The idea of serotonin is that we want our music to have the same effect on people as serotonin has on them.

    It is Election Day today, is that something that interests you?
    William: Yeah, we all voted.  It’s really important.  With this election it’s drawn a lot of young people in to be interested in politics – it definitely has with all of us.
    Kapil: There’s a real opportunity to shake things up and make a change.
    William: I wouldn’t say we’re a political band, I don’t think that’s ever going to come out in our song writing in the way you get those slightly political religious overtones with bands like U2.  I don’t think that’s particularly interesting, what I think is interesting is the way this election has been dealt with in a  kind of X-Factor way.  It’s become sort of political porn – when you watch it, it’s more about the tension on the TV screen and the fight of it.  The whole bullshit around it is quite interesting, none of them are really saying what they’re going to do, they’re just saying he’s shit, don’t vote for him.
    Kapil: they’re all just attacking each other.
    William: It’s a big dogfight and that’s always very entertaining to watch.
    Kapil: It also makes you more confused thinking about it.  They all just as good as each other – or bad as each other.
    William: No one is saying we’re gonna do that, make your choice.  It’s not as clear as that – it’s so confusing.  Particularly David Cameron, he just wants to please people, I think.  I think the only part that is really saying what we’re going to do and that’s it is Labour.

    Mystery Jets’ new album, Serotonin, is out on Rough Trade records on 5 July.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

    Music

    Birmingham has a new academy

    If it weren’t for the fact I am sat on the floor in the new Birmingham Academy listening to the first headlining band, Editors, playing I might not believe it to actually be open.

    They’ve been talking about this move forever, so it’s good to see it finally happen. I spent a fair amount of time in the old academy and it was a woefully depressing music venue. The air conditioning stopped working, the loos always flooded and you could barely see anything on the Academy2 stage. Bar academy was a smelly tunnel and completely useless for an audience of more than 15. I spent a lot of time at the academy because it was where the bands I wanted to see were playing. As a music venue it was horrible.

    But enough about the old. This is a new Academy. The new paint smell is still lingering and the carpet has that freshly laid bounce. It’s shiny and brand new. It has at least 44 ladies loos. More importantly, there are three very seperate venues. Something the old one never really managed. I’ve only seen two so far, as Academy2 isn’t open to the public yet, but The main and third academy look like good spaces.

    Main Academy holds around 3000, I think, with a balcony area which is currently holding the VIPs so I’ve not been up. I’m not overly keen on balconies, so we’ll leave it at that. The floor, however, feels better. There are three quite large bars on two adjacent walls, a nice big merchandise area and a few good spaces to sit – although still not enough, in my opinion, hence sitting on the floor. More importantly there’s a good view from the room. But there’s still quite a lot of those blind spits the old Academy suffered from, they just don’t seem as bad.

    Academy3 is very plush. It holds about 250 and looks like the kind of place you’d put on nice singer-songwriter gigs who weren’t going to make a mess. It’s also where the good carpet is. Waiting to see how long that survives.

    The Academy team have done well, this place looks great. I’m looking forward to seeing the middle-sized room and hopefully the increase in bands and artists playing in brum. Hopefully when the fresh paint smell us replaced with spilt beer the shine or the Academy won’t go with it.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

    Music

    Brand New London setlist – 27/06/09

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

    Brand New’s London set list from 27/06/09

    1. The Shower Scene.
    2. The Quiet Things.
    3. The No Seatbelt Song.
    4. Sic Transit Gloria.
    5. Okay I Believe You.
    6. Jaws Theme Swimming.
    7. Play Crack the Sky.
    8. Gasoline.
    9. Sowing Season.
    10. Millstone.
    11. Archers.
    12. Jesus Christ.
    13. Luca.
    14. Bride.
    15. Degausser.
    16. You Won’t Know.
    17. My Girl cover
    18. Mixtape
    19. 70 x 7
    20. Oh Comely (Neutral Milk Hotel cover)

    Music

    Day four: Brand New roadtrip 2009 – Birmingham

    After very little sleep we leave Liverpool, where we stayed at Jo’s. We pick Jamie up and head home to Brum. It’s midway through and the lack of sleep, irratic eating kinda made today a bit of a quiet one. Well, until we braved the monsoon part two and headed for the Windsor in B’ham city centre for drinks and the only meal of the day.

    As expected, we lose half the group before Moneen come on stage. Tonight they’re as good as Glasgow and the lead singer is chatty and full of praise for M&S food range for vegetarians. They’re definitely a great addition to the tour and I’ve really enjoyed seeing them each night.

    Kevin Devine starts with Ballgame, played on acoustic, which just highlights the noisy chatting from the crowd. However once the band is taken on stage the audience seem to pay attention. Once again he is great.

    The failings of Birmingham academy as a venue are illustrated well tonight. It’s impossibly hot and uncomfortable in the venue and this is amplified significantly at the front, with wasted space at the back between the bars forcing the audience to pack in closer.

    That dosent stop the crowd going crazy for Shower Scene and Quiet Things. The set is much the same as the last two nights, with the exceptions of an Archers of Loaf cover and Welcome to Bangok replaced by a stunning version of SoCo Anaretto Lime.

    The club night after seems a little odd-whilst the music is good there seems to be very few people there. But nevertheless a good time is had by all and a rowsing sing-a-long to Jude Law proves a small but enthusiastic group can make a lot of noise.

    It’s nice to sleep in my own bed, but we didn’t manage to get back until the small hours and making sure everyone was where they should be takes time. We also bid goodbye to Connor and Shane, who unexpectedly made it this far, but London was just too expensive.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*