Gig ticker     Humdrum Express + Vix & Her MsChiefs + more at Boars Head Kidderminster May 27th...     Rhino and the Ranters + Harry Jordan at the Blue Piano B'ham May 29th...     Rebecca Downes at Robin 2, Bilston June 2nd...     Lunar Festival at Tanworth In Arden June 3rd-5th...     Steve Gibbons + Quill + ADO + Goodnight Lenin + more at Tenbury Wells Festival June 18th...     Destroyers + Joe Broughton's Conservatoire Folk Ensemble + more at Adrian Boult Hall Destruction Party, Birmingham June 19th...     Swampmeat at Dark Horse Moseley B'ham July 1st...     

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The fiddler in the shed and his army of bright-eyed Folk monsters

It's that time of year. The Folk Ensemble will run riot. All 50 of them.

I'm sitting with a university lecturer in deepest Smethwick. If truth be be told, I'm not here for his academic chops. He's a muso, and a bloody brilliant one at that. We're at the bottom of his garden, drinking coffee. In a shed; brick-built, but still a shed. But instead of bamboo canes, rakes, spaces and shears cluttering the floor, you step around guitars and fiddles. There's posters and a couple of really tasty speakers hanging off the walls, hooked up to quite a large Mac.

You've guessed by now. This is actually a studio. It belongs to the Urban Folk Quartet's Joe Broughton. This is his workplace.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Rhino and The Ranters. A dirty taste. Music gourmets come running.

Rhino and The Ranters as a rice dish? Forget Risotto Milanese. Gotta be Louisiana Dirty Rice. 

Photo: Gavin Wray
14 months ago, I was at the Spotted Dog in Digbeth for Rhino And The Ranters, pretty new and already highly recommended, at Dylan Gibbons' Thursday Blues club night. They played to the regular Spotted Dog crowd: musos and interested types. They shook it up nicely. We talked, and I recorded a couple of songs for a 2015 blog post; there's one of them below, along with a brand new mix Ryan Webb kindly let me have.  

They were all over town, busy establishing themselves at any venue that would have them. We talked at length about that whole process. It wasn't long before they were pulling serious numbers. 

This summer, the gigs are fewer – it's all part of the process - but they're a lot bigger, and these days they're getting paid. Good going. Time for a catch-up?

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Whittingdale's little list: The White Paper and the BBC

Clowns to the left of them. Jokers to the right...

At the BBC: Ariel between Wisdom and Gaiety. Mike Knell, Flickr
I've got two pages open on my screen as I write this. Both make my blood boil. The first is yet another anti-BBC piece from Rupert Murdoch's Times, where Culture Secretary John Whittingdale is reported to have joked to a bunch of Tory Students that the end of the BBC might be 'a tempting prospect'. The article goes on to list Gary Lineker as the first to spring to the Beeb's defence. Go Gary, I say; power to you in your underpants.  

Item number two is just as jarring: a strident attack on the BBC from new boys Evolve Politics, who emerged after the Labour Leadership election, along with The Canary and Momentum. They're all over my Facebook feed. Depending on your politics and/or your Facebook 'friends', they may well be all over your Facebook too. That's the creepy way the thing works. Ironically, it's great for marketing...

Evolve Politics and pals are solidly, uncritically, behind Jeremy Corbyn; Jezza can do no wrong, ever ever ever. Evolve are never less than outraged. Here, they slam the BBC for being disgusting Tory stooges.  

Poor old Beeb, eh? Attacked on all sides, while the troops on the ground have to soldier on. It's reminding me of Tennyson's poem...

Sunday, 1 May 2016

The oldest studio in Brum - reborn?

Pretty sure Frank didn't record here. I'll ask...
These are tough times for recording studios and their owners. The loss of Highbury Studio, announced last week, was a body blow. This is terrible news, especially hard on the visionary John Mostyn, who has poured his heart and soul into Birmingham's music scene for decades now, sometimes at great personal cost.  I salute John for his work, and I sincerely hope that, should he so choose, he returns to a field where he has done so much good. 

But other studios are in trouble too. The middle ground is being squeezed almost to death. Is not the right time to be starting up with a brand new facility? Some people think so. Rob Bruce, another Brum musicbiz veteran, certainly does. 

Friday, 22 April 2016

What can DJs learn from Poets? Two separate worlds, right?

If you're going to talk, talk to me, not at me. And make it good. 

Guests David Calcutt with Helen Leavesley
Every month, a bunch of poets gather at Brum Radio and make a programme, obviously on poetry. The show, Brum Radio Poets, went out on Sunday 25th April, and will is also now up on MixCloud. I normally oversee the recording. I wouldn't go so far as to call it producing; others might. 'Studio Engineer' might cover it. Except that Brum radio only actually has one proper studio; we use a spare room. It's all very lo-fi and improvised. 

I really like working this way, miles away from the grandiose fuss of a full-on facility. You have to concentrate on the core: ideas, passion, communication. A stripped-down approach can go a long way with the right content. And if you think all this has nothing to do with DJs and music radio, you couldn't be more wrong. 

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Festivals 2016! Mud! Rip-off prices! Well, hopefully not.

Which local festivals do best by local acts? Two are absolute stand outs. 

Nile tearing it up at MoJazz 
Here comes summer (although not as I write), and the promise of shimmering music in the sunshine, in good company. And new discoveries: acts you might have heard of but hadn't caught up with yet, playing to you live. Doesn't that sound nice? 

Festivals can mean different things: the term has stretched from the idea of a day or three of music in a field somewhere. Now it's one-dayers, sometimes inside, sometimes all night. Or it's mega operations - holiday camps with drugs - where tens of thousands of punters shell out fortunes to trudge through mud and pay over the odds for designer food. I'm not exactly broken up that Wireless have swerved Perry Park again. But I am dead chuffed that Moseley Folk has headed back closer to its folk roots. 

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Weird on Purpose: This is Tmrw come over all Record Store Day

Another Brum compilation! Hooray!

On Saturday April 16thRecord Store Day - you are invited to a party at Stryx Gallery in Digbeth, celebrating the launch of the latest This is Tmrw project: Weird On Purpose, a 2016 compilation of Birmingham bands, centered on Indie and its variations.

This is something to be celebrated. This is Tmrw are Brum promoters who love their music. But any promoter will tell you it's one thing to run gigs because you love the music; there's a lot of sweat and financial risk in that alone. But it's quite another to try to put on record what's actually going on in our city. 

I've tried this a few times, and it's a LOT of work. I've got a bit about that after the jump too.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

From Rave promoting to e-marketing 101. An object lesson from TicketSellers

Rave promoters then; impressively legit now. Who knew?

Slick and online. Times have changed....
You've almost certainly bought gigs tickets online. Leaving aside scam sites who will relieve you of £2.5k for an Adele ticket, there are dozens of straightforward operations, whose business is simply to ease the transaction process for operations both small and large. Links for gigs pop up on band sites, face book and twitter. Click and you land on the site. Pay and you get a code number which you present at the gig, on paper or on your phone. You're name's on the list, you go in. Voila. Life was never simpler for small acts and promoters.  Um. Maybe. 

Sunday, 27 March 2016

The same, not the same. Horace Panter, the Specials after John Bradbury, and more

The many bands of Sir Horace Gentleman

Next month, the man who plays bass with the Specials, founder member Horace Panter, brings his latest project to Birmingham. This is his fourth band. Not sequentially mind – they all run pretty much at the same time. 

The trick is: Horace is now... going Country. That's in addition to a Blues outfit and a very purist Ska operation. Oh, and the Specials. Not bad going for a kid who bumped into Jerry Dammers at Art School in Kettering.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Pete Williams. What people remember. What fans want. What a performer is. Different.

Didn't you use to be...?

Pete Williams. On stage. In his element
Decades ago, I went to watch my beloved but useless football team (I could tell you but you'd die laughing) fold at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers. I was heading home on the train, when a friend, a Wolves fan, called to wind me up. The train was full of Wolves fans, who rapidly clocked that I was being razzed. They sat back to enjoy the spectacle.

I handed my phone to a pal. He loudly name-checked me. Big mistake. 

Amused consternation in the Wolves camp. Coo – they had a DJ in their midst to tease! To be fair, they were actually very nice... for the next interminable hour of ribbing.

But one phrase in particular stuck in my mind: “Didn't you use to be Robin Valk?

Still am, pal, still am. And when I told this tale to Pete Williams, he fell off his chair laughing.