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live music

    Birmingham, Music and Movies

    Stumbling across live music


    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 and Movies

    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 and Movies

    Brand New Birmingham setlist – 26/06/09

    Brand New’s set-list from the Birmingham o2 Academy.

    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. Web in Front (Archers of Loaf cover)
    8. Play Crack the Sky.
    9. Gasoline.
    10. Sowing Season.
    11. Millstone.
    12. Archers.
    13. Jesus Christ.
    14. Luca.
    15. Bride.
    16. Degausser.
    17. You Won’t Know.
    18. Soco Amaretto Lime.

    *This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

    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

    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

    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*