Friday, April 29, 2016

LIve sessions at the square: Christian Devaux + Elle Chante

Every Friday afternoon the square in Birmingham (that dishevelled shopping bunch of shops above the old Birmingham Ballroom and right opposite Oasis)  is holding live music sessions from local unsigned artists. It's a mix of all sorts of genres and all of these events are free. Earlier today on my way back from buying King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard's, unbelievably good 'Nonagon Infinity' (On Vinyl, Obviously).
I caught a brief DJ  Set  and later on a performance from Local rapper Chrstian Deavaux.* While hip hop in the UK seems to be currently all about The grime revival, Christian's music (rapped over backing tracks on his phone) seems to be much more in line with the current American sound. Although less trap and closer to the trippy yet commercially friendly sound you can find on Drake's recent albums. It felt a bit odd watching a rapper perform to only a handful of people, and people walking past on the way to other shops. There was a bit of a cruel irony in the situation but he handled it with good grace and asked the few of us to wave our hands in the air. He's got a decent flow, which has some room for improvement. His songs felt upbeat but rather personal at the same time. There's nothing that original about his sound or style but today he made the best of a crappy situation. He's a lovely guy and I think he's definitely worth keeping an eye on.
The other performance I caught today was from a young singer-songwriter called Elle Chante. Her finger-picked acoustic songs reminded me a bit of Corinne Bailey Rae or Lianne Li Havas. Her songs are beautifully delicate and  melancholy in tone.  I really like her voice which is distinctive yet quiet almost like a whisper. I liked her Cover of Frank Ocean's 'Thinkin Bout you'. Overall  both sets were both seeing despite the cold and I'm looking forward to whatever sessions come up next. 

*I think he said he was from Barbados.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Flatpack Film Festival 10: Blind Cinema + Shortcuts

One thing I love about Birmingham is that there is always something going on. I'd just bought a copy of Parquet Courts new LP (from Milque and Mulhle in Digbeth) when the shop owner asked me if I had checked out any of the events happening at the Flatpack film festival. I hadn't so I picked up a guide and went to a showing of 'Blind Cinema' in the Electric Cinema. The film began with a short introduction from the director (an artist called Britt Hatzius) and a white circle that moved around the screen which made me think that James Bond was going to appear any moment and fire his gun at me. Once the screen went completely white we were all asked to put on the blind folds that we had been provided with. This was the first and (presumably) only screening of the film, which up to that point had only been seen by it's creator and was to been seen by the school children whose job it was to narrate it for us for the first time. A child was stood behind me (a boy, I think), who had to narrate and explain the events happening on screen for me. It was difficult enough for the boy to describe the utterly bizarre events on screen, but even harder for me to imagine them and try to follow every word to understand what was happening on the screen. From what I gathered, it started with a boy in  a room sitting on a chair and reading some books. Then there was something about a projector and a guy smashing eggs on his head sand eating them. Later on  there was 'fireworks everywhere', a guy shining a torch while walking around in the dark. An egg flying around (eggs were a reoccurring theme) and much more surrealism. This was a much more engaging and social trip to the cinema, and while utterly bizarre, it was nice to be involved.
After that I went to the 'Action Space' for a 45 minute selection of short movies. The Action Space was a colourful little tube with massive bean bags to lie on. The films included a series of incredibly boring yet also endearingly awkward shorts from the Ronald Regan presidential archives. There was an incredibly black humoured satire Action Man: Battlefield Casualties (with voice work from Matt Berry), another gory funny short named 'Croissant'. There were some trippy cartoons -including one that hilariously showed the perils of smartphone addiction- and documentaries. One was about a local photographer, and another 'Bob Spells Backwards' about a man who could do just tha

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Robot Company, Fullshore, Smart Casual, Who Saves the Hero? (Leftover Photos)

Robot Company, Fullshore, Smart Casual, Who Saves the Hero? Live at Subside review. 10/4/16

Sometimes I can be pretty hardcore, like going to Subside on a Saturday night, staying out till 4 am, going to to work in the morning and then heading back to Subside later that night. This show was yet another freebie put on by Subside. I'd come to play pool, catch up with friends and see Smart Casual play. Before that though was Robot Company. The Brummie three piece played a mix of frantic screamy post hardcore and slower sad songs. They reminded me vaguely of At The Drive In, and much like At the drive in, their music didn't make much sense to me. They seem to be having fun with it though. 4.8/10.  Fullshore really impressed me with their gently melodic take on post Hardcore/Emo. I loved the subtle melodies in their sound and the use of two guitars. I really enjoyed their songs and was impressed by how well they play together and how good they are despite being such a young band. 6.4/10.
Being a fan of Smart Casual feels a bit like joining some kind of strange cult*. They've gained a small army of dedicated fans. These fans all wear black t shirts with the bands logo on. Their music seems to appeal to a very wide range of people, and there's always a few nutters in a Smart Casual crowd. I had a chat with their drummer/mascot Talbot, (while surrounded by fans in that shirt) who told me about how when they recently first played Wales they already had a load of fans there ready to greet them. The cult seems to be spreading fast. As if to prove a point the bands singer, Colin wore a New Found Glory shirt with 'Pop punk's NOT dead' in big letters on the back. Soon the fans were dancing, moshing about and chanting 'Shut up Talbot!'. Smart Casual's style of pop punk is a bit more punk than pop and has a few hints of classic heavy metal, from their guitarists shredding and Talbot's drumming. Their tunes are uplifting and empowering, such as the epic rant Colin goes into on 'Taking back the power' which is basically about telling, anyone who tells you you're not good enough to fuck off. They've got plenty of choruses and 'whoaahh ohhs!' to sing along to. They finished with a mosh pit educing finale of a Limp Bizkit cover**. I had a lot of fun and for the (very good) price of £8 bought their CD and T shirt and joined the cult myself. 7.6/10

Cardiff's Who saves the hero? (the only band not from Birmingham on the bill) clearly share a bond with Smart Casual after touring together. On stage the two band shared vocals and beers, and clearly had a great time. They were a bit more polished than the bands on before them. A nostalgic mix of pop punk, and emo which happily proves that with the demise of Funeral For a Friend, Wales is still a home to the genre. They've good good tunes, play together really well and had a laid back, self deprecating attitude on stage. 6.0/10

I'd have loved them when I was 14.

*Much like being a fan of the Polyphonic Spree
** Don't know or care which Limp Bizkit song it was

Friday, April 1, 2016

Enemo- J, Blank Parody + Crime and Punishment 2011 Live at Subside 31/3/16

You may notice I've been blogging about 'Crime and Punishment 2011' about a bit lately. You can see me awkwardly dancing/taking photographs in their new video for 'clones' (off the 'Extra Hour' EP). Seeing that it was 7:30 pm at Subside on a Thursday night people were mostly sitting down. Yet I could tell that people were enjoying Crime and Punishment's mix of grime bars, squelchy beats, loud screaming, jumping around and getting right into people's faces. The bands beardy screamer, Joey jumped on the bar, and screamed at the punters, D.A.N Carter threw himself on the floor and rapped while curled up in a ball. One guy even danced. They announced their new upcoming EP and played a blinding 'Paralysed', which with its trap style beats is my favourite song of theirs yet. All this weirdness is pretty normal for a Crime and Punishment 2011, and as usual their antics seem to either confuse, amuse or thrill people. 7.2/10

Next up was local lads Blank Parody. Apparently they used to be something of an indie band, but they've recently changed line up and gone in a whole new post hardcore style direction. they were let down a bit by Subside's awful sound quality but this couldn't hide their talent. They've got big riffs, cool little twiddly guitar bits which reminded onlookers of early Biffy Clyro, but a bit more polished and clean than Biffy's early sound. They played on the tables and all looked very rockstarish through out. Its a shame that their drums seemed to drown everything out, but that's not really their fault. 6.8/10

Not long after the stage saw a change from super skinny jeans, to long black t shirts, baggy denim jeans and black dreadlocks. From what I gather Enemo-J, (Pronunciation: ee-nee-mo-jay), are Midlands based, have been going since the dawn of the millennium and once supported Korn. There is no hiding that Enemo-J are Nu Metal. And despite the genre's ridicule and infamy deserve some credit for keeping the flag up during these trying times. While I may have loved this sort of thing as a teenager, I am a very different person now*. So at first I wasn't impressed by their downtuned riffs and heavy grooves. Yet they've got the sound of a band who've clearly spent a lot of time on the road and honed their craft. A small yet appreciative gathering of fans watched the show. The watching (and one couple grinding) gave way to furious moshing. Their singer got us to stop moshing for a few seconds, threw a CD right into the middle and watched as fans scrambled to pick it up. He also repeatedly urged Kanye West to suck his dick (which irked me a bit, I love Kanye**). For the finale Crime and Punishment 2011 joined them on stage for a Limp Bizkit cover, cue more moshing. I left Subside with a sore nose and huge headache. Enemo-J are not a band I'd ever normally listen to or go to see, but for a cold grey Thursday evening it'll do. 5.6/10

*As I write this I am listening to Miles Davis, Kind of Blue on Vinyl. Something I'd never have done 10 years ago.   
** Though he's pissed me off a bit lately. Just put the stupid album on CD already!