Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Jeff Lynne's ELO, Live in Birmingham 24/6/16. Review.

Is it really possible to dislike ELO? even if the answer to that riddle is no, the resurgence of interest in the band is nothing short of extraordinary. I have been to (the venue that I still refuse to call anything other than) the NIA many times. Yet the only time I have been there and not seen a single seat empty was for ELO. I was surrounded by thousands of loving ELO fans, constantly clapping along to each song and the bits in between. We had a seat on the left hand side of the arena on the upper tier (which is why the photos are not up to my usual standard). We totally missed the support, from some band called The Shoos. But that didn't really matter. I remember saying that the show was disappointingly short. I could have sworn that the show only lasted about 40 minutes. In reality it was more like 75. I guess time flies when you're having fun.
Behind ELO was a massive circular lighting rig, which shot massive lasers all around the arena. They had a huge screen which had big projections of interstellar travel, UFO's and for 'Wild West Hero', the wild west. You don't have to be a huge ELO fan to come to their shows and hear several songs you love. From 'Wild Woman' (the second song they played), 'All Over the World', 'Turn to Stone', and 'Don't Bring Me Down' which with its huge neon graphics of footballs was an obvious nod to England to do well in the euro's. Even the new single 'When I was a boy' went down really well. Jeff Lynne's put together a great new band who were all introduced by name, including their drummer who milked the applause a bit. The last song they played before the encore was my favourite 'Mr Blue Sky' which had more or less the entire NIA standing up and clapping along. 'Mr Blue Sky' really is the sound of joy. They even used a fire extinguisher for the percussion bits. After the inevitable roars for an encore came onto to do the obligatory Chuck Berry cover of 'Roll Over Beethoven' complete with orchestral intro. After this one song encore they all stood in line for a selfie, and then they were gone.

Monday, June 13, 2016

ALLUSONDRUGS+ Fizzy Blood + Crime and Punishment 2011 + Layover + Dearist. Live at the Sunflower Lounge (7/6/16) review

Two days after leaving The Lunar Festival I was already going to another show. This was my 4th time seeing ALLUSONDRUGS and second seeing Fizzy Blood. The atmosphere was a tad different to the last few days, with less dancing about fields and more standing still and occasionally clapping. The first bunch on were Wolverhampton bunch Dearist (6/10) who impressed me with their mix gentle guitar melodies, angsty vocals and big overall sound, and reminded me more of the slightly more mature end of emo, such as Taking Back Sunday or Brand New. They've got an entire album on-line for free to check out on their bandcamp and I suggest you do. Layover (6.4) are one of the best local pop punk bands that I've seen lately (and I've seen far too many pop punk bands lately). They've got a good singer in Luke Rainsford (also a solo singer-songwriter), who in-between songs is a funny, smart self deprecating joker, and during songs a jumping, shouting ball of angst. Frankly if you've seen any pop-punk band ever you'll know what to expect. Beat Town Grime-Metal faves Crime and Punishment 2011 (7.2) actually had some fans come down to see them. They even had an encore request for their cover of Shutdown, which they didn't do but to be fair Dan was dropping Skepta bars throughout their set. The set was mostly new tunes from the 'Null EP' and the slightly nervous crowd filled a big circle around the edge of the room. So they had to keep reminding everyone that they're all friendly really. As usual Joey screamed a lot and Dan and Glitch shared bars. C+p's beatman Jason showed off his new lounge lothario look, while also screaming. The beats of 'Paralysed' shook Fizzy Blood's merch off the wall. While 'Storms' bummed everyone out a bit.
It's been about 3 years since I last saw Fizzy Blood (7.2), Since then they've got a new bassist (whose got some epic bass face) and they seem to have dropped their math rock-ish roots for a much more direct rock n' roll sound. The set was also full of northern humour, with jokes about Birmingham 'I went to a spice themed party in Birmingham, I got there and everyone was dressed as an astronaut' and banter about the headliners, with their singer saying he's glad to not be headlining after seeing what ALLUSONDRUGS singer Jason does to his mics.
It was nice seeing ALLUSONDRUGS (8) back to their rowdy selves after cleaning up for the Throwdown tour, they still managed to not fall over for the whole set though. Strangely enough the crowd didn't erupt into a frenzy of moshing, but the highlight was getting to hear a whole bunch of new songs, which hopefully means that d├ębut album is around the corner. Of the newbies 'Sleep Machine' was a gentle shoegazey ballard, which is one of the most delicate and graceful songs they've done yet. 'Hang' was similar and full of chiming grungy guitar melodies. While 'Good People is blatantly 'about being horny', and is the funkiest, sleaziest tune they've done yet.  These new tunes, alongside other newbies 'Sister' (which is about being good to people) and 'Stir are some of the best tunes  they've ever written. Jason is still the class clown, wearing a blouse, giving his microphone a blowjob and getting everyone to sing bassist Jamal, a happy birthday (it wasn't his birthday). At one point he gobbed on the ceiling, and everyone in the room looked up and wondered when it'd drop down, disgustingly it lasted the whole show.


Lunar Festival Review! (Club Nights + Workshops)

Of course the lunar Festival is not just about the bands playing, being a family festival  there is also a lot of workshops for all ages. This year these ranged from the strange (laughter yoga), slightly scary (Slack-lining, Skate Ramp), stuff I'd done before (Chicken Bone John's Guitar lessons, vinyl  Record crafts) to the actually pretty cool. This year The nice guys who run The Culture Cart, showed me how to create, my own screen print with a paint roller and some rubber templates,  I was really happy with the end result and I had a nice chat with them both.  The only other workshop I ended up doing was the Northern Soul dancing workshop. They had a DJ called Johnny 45 who played the original 7" northern soul records, while another guy showed us all the moves. Despite falling over it was a lot of fun, Northern Soul dancing is exhausting but it is it enjoyable. In fact a lot of the moves came pretty naturally to me, although I had difficulty with quite a few of them as well. 

After Mercury Rev had finished on Friday, the last live act on was in the Psychemajik Arabian tent, from Circle Sky.  Who put on a set of old school avid house.  they had a huge mass of strange looking live drums, wires and buttons. It was fascinating to watch as well as great to dance too.  In the Bimble Inn, This is Tmrw had a Dutch Uncles out on a DJ set.  Some guy kept on trying to coach me on my dancing but I knew my moves were on fire. As if to prove that I would do anything to impress a girl I ended up badly doing the worm, up a hill on a thatch floor. It was painful, but she was impressed. Meanwhile the DJ's span loads of classic tunes, from 80's classics by Prince to songs by The Streets.
Immediately after Bentley Rhythm Ace's set on Saturday night a hen night somehow convinced me to stand still while they wrapped me up in toilet paper, and made me a brides dress out of it. While embarrassing  photos of me were taken. They did a fantastic job, even making me a bouquet of flowers. There  was actually a few groups  of hens doing this and I had the best brides dress by far.  A Lunar Festival official timed the whole thing and they won! They even let me keep the toilet roll afterwards. I had a chat with a girl dressed as Mario, who was with a girl dressed as the princess. I did actually ask if she had kissed the princess, she said she had.  I also annoyed her a bit by giving her my true thoughts on that game. I didn't manage to find any of them again that night but I did meet a stag night of lads dressed as the cast of Father Ted, covered in glitter to make it even stranger.  A lad dressed as Mrs Doyle served me rum out of a teapot. I also shared a plastic bag full of cider with some lad in The Bimble inn.  I found some marshmallows and gave them out to people on the dancefloor. The Magic Door was the place to be however. I managed to not get covered in glitter (beards and glitter are not a good combination), and once I got into the mood actually started to enjoy the vibe and repetitive house music. It was full of incredibly gorgeous girls in costume,  yet I left after one puff on a spliff made me cough violently for 10 minutes (the woman who gave it to me me was very apologetic). Drugs aren't cool kids. I had a nice chat with a girl dressed as a chicken who told me that Owls and Bats both fly together at night. I will have to Google that at some point.
On the last night The Bimble Inn had some DJ sets from the Swinamajig lads. The C@ in the H@ put  on a great set, mixing fat house beats with 1920' swing samples. Yet it was The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show that was  the main draw. It was a bit strange seeing the man who I watched on Robot Wars as a kid in the flesh,  but he is a fantastic DJ with an obvious love for the music he plays.  he got people singling and dancing along, while doing the same himself. He mixes a lot of older tunes with modern beats and is has some great ideas, such as mashing up 'Uptown Funk'  with James Brown's 'Living in America' and in his red top hat looks pretty dapper while doing so. I nearly pulled but  that ended up with her falling on top of me and me walking away feeling depressed. So I retired to the fire where I immediately made friends. All sorts of amazing people were by the fire, me and a few lads talked about Father Ted, Fascism, Eurovision, Festivals and Hawkwind, while drinking a lethal mix of disgusting wine from a bag and Buckfast. One friend I'd made was surprised when I said that the only festival I'd been to was Lunar and that he assumed I was a festival legend. I took it as a compliment and from now on my goal in life, is to really become a festival legend.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Lunar Festival Review! (Sunday 5th June)

Didn't feel quite as awful this morning, but it was the hottest day of the weekend so far, the blazing sun burnt my face and legs, but I did at least meet some lovely people while drinking about a gallon of Pimm's. The Mothers Earth Experiment (6.4/10) and Flamingods (7.2) were both already blowing minds with trippy jazz rock in the earlier hours. I much preferred the later, whose fusion of acid rock and Asian beats give me an idea of how a Hawkwind/Shpongle* collaboration might sound. Khurangbin's (6) gentle Tarantino-ish instrumental rock was a nice respite from the blazing sun. While The Mariachi's (8.4) were hilarious. They said that they realised early on that they could ruin any song, and announced that their next song was a 'Scottish song with a very Mexican Rhythm'. Their set was a mix of mostly 80's pop songs, so everyone could sing along. Paradise Bangkok International Mowlam Band (7.6) were every bit as fantastic live as I thought they'd be. Coming all the way from Thailand and bringing their totally unique sound and weird and wonderful instruments with them. Their music was totally infectious and incredibly funky, and they built up the speed and energy with each song. A lot of fans had turned up for Matt Berry and The Maypoles (5.6). A man of many talents, who is most famous for his comedic acting** but lesser known for his music. I don't think there is any pastiche, but if there is it is a loving one of the 1970's Canterbury scene. His band are very talented and they have some lovely songs, but ultimately it is strictly for fans of 70's soft-prog and fans of his other work. The Zombies (9.2) were fantastic, they sound incredible for a band into their 50th year and they are true English
gentlemen, but also aware of their own importance. They told us which songs charted and which didn't, the history of Odessy and Oracle and who their famous fans were, without seeming even slightly egotistical. They proved to be more than just a one album wonder with a set that spanned decades and included solo work and songs by Argent. 'Time of the season' and She's not there' were obvious highlights but so was Argent's 'Hold your head up'. As usual (for Lunar that is) a procession of drummers, brass bands, people in animal masks and flame jugglers, walked around the site and gave a cloaked Matt Berry the honour of dropping the torch. Super Furry Animals (7.6) had the final headline set of the weekend. A lot of the 90+ minutes dragged for me. I didn't care for most of the acoustic tunes.
But the highlights, Such as the occasional drops of Dn'B, Gruff Rhys singing through a power rangers helmet and the three guitarists lifting their instruments to the sky. Throughout the set they were funny and pretended to play a new song called 'earth' which was actually just a strange audience participation section where we all out our hands on our heads and waved our fingers. The electro-rock masterpiece 'the man don't give a fuck' lasted about 20 minutes. They waved a placars with messages such as 'thanks for the lasers' ,'lasers hate austerity', and 'resist phoney encores' before leaving the stage, leaving one of them to play a short DJ set of strange techno noise before coming back on in their yeti suits, to finish the show. SFA's are experts at putting on a show.

*Google them

**The IT Crowd, Mighty Boosh, Toast Of London, House Of Fools, Garth Merengi's Darkplace...

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lunar Festival Review! (Saturday 4th June)

Woke up feeling very rough, and came to accept that I wouldn't get to see every band/do every single workshop. I heard a bit of Seeland (6/10) from over in the vintage stalls, whose music seems to shift between pastoral progressive rock to mind blowing psych rock. Recent Heavenly Records signings Amber Arcades (8.4) are one of the coolest bands I saw all weekend, with their vintage threads and chilled out, modern psychedelic rock. They reminded me a bit of Joesfin Ohrn the day before but more mellow. Annelotte De Graff, exudes slacker cool on stage and she is absolutely lovely in person. Amber Arcades’ set was one of the big surprises of the weekend, as I became a fan of theirs immediately afterwards. Bill Ryder Jones (6.4) a very dry northern sense of humour that contrasts the melancholy nature of his songs. Despite the subject matter of his songs, it was a very enjoyable set. A teenage girl passed out from heat at the corner of the stage and without breaking a sweat or stopping his strumming threw a bottle of water out for her. The main highlights other than the banter, were 'Two to Birkenhead' and 'Satellites'. Yet I still think that Bill has yet to write as many great songs as he could have.  Ibibio Sound System were fantastic, but I missed most of their party vibes, to check out local heroes, Rhino and The Ranters (8.8). Who have a fantastic front-man in Ryan Webb, a true entertainer, with a huge presence, who is a great entertainer as well as a singer. Their mix of Blues, Rockabilly, Folk and Punk thrilled the Bimble Inn. Their drummer put on a fairy light covered Skiffle Board, and jumped into the crowd.
Television (6.4) were slightly disappointing. They played all the songs from Marquee Moon, but not in the same order, were blighted by technical issues and the bits between songs were filled with pointless jamming. Tom Verlaine's voice also lacks the embittered snarl that made the band so alluring first time round. All this aside however they were still brilliant. They sounded very tight, and it was a joy seeing these classic songs played live. By the time they played 'Marquee Moon' in full none of my complaints mattered. Returning brummie big beat heroes Bentley Rhythm Ace (9.2) really know how to put on a show. Their stage was covered in neon LED lights, which covered a mini cooper, an actual air raid siren and most of their instruments. They bought along a huge smiley face flag, and wore gold and silver capes and suits. They bought along fire jugglers and exotic dancers, and that's before I get to the music. BRA have the best Rhythm section in the business, their funky bass guitar and incredible drumming was the backdrop to their funky and incredibly danceable big beat tunes, all of which was the perfect start to the nights clubbing.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Lunar Festival Review! (Friday 3rd June)

This year I got up to the site early. Not much was happening, but I was already eating amazing food and meeting lovely people. The first band I saw was a local bunch called Chanteuse, whose mix of gently melodic guitars, pounding drums and slight shoe-gaze vibe made a nice compliment to the summer sun. Victories At Sea were due to play the main stage afterwards but that was filled by Castillions (6/10) who're one of a mini scene of brummie 60's inspired garage rockers. Their set was full of funky, dirty rock n' roll tunes, which I mostly enjoyed, despite not loving their singers voice. Victories At Sea's (7.6) scaled down set in the Bimble Inn was fantastic even without their usual multimedia backdrop and drummer (he fell off a ladder). The inn was packed out full of fans, and with nothing but one keyboard and two guitars made a wall of ethereal noise.
The first real surprise of the day was Joesefin Orhn & The
Liberation (8.4). Josefin, is both sexy and incredibly cool while also being very nonchalant. Her band are fantastic, especially their keyboardist, who seemed to be on loan from Kraftwerk. JO+L are everything I've come to expect from a modern day psychedelic rock band, with droning guitars, repetitive, swirling synths, pounding drums and echoing vocals. They aren't just contemporaries of The Horrors and Tame Impala, but every bit their equals.
Stealing Sheep (8.8) are kind of an acquired taste, but from their matching white outfits and the fact that they clearly loved every second. There is much to like about them. But their music is a bizarre mix of girl group pop and left-field electronica. They're totally unique and couldn't exist in any other decade. By contrast Badly Drawn Boy (4.8) was a bit crap. I can't believe that I'd never heard of Black Mekon (8.4) before now, not only are they a fantastic garage rock band from Birmingham, but they also know how to put on a show. They wear suits and kato masks, have two guitars and no bass while their drummer makes a crashing noise that no other band seems to make. It was fantastic fun and the room was full of people dancing. Mercury Rev (8.8) are also kind of an
acquired taste. Yet I cannot deny that they are an incredible live band. Their live sound is something that does not translate to their records. They sound bigger, louder and far more of a rock band live. Their singer has a mad eyed stare and a commanding presence on stage. He's also really good at playing the hacksaw, which makes a strange but delicate noise. Their music has always been a soundtrack to dreams, but this was a whole other experience. They built up a cresendo, that kept on going to a point where it was totally transcendental and then finished with their biggest hit (Dreams).

After this I went clubbing till 3AM but that's another story.