Gig ticker     Chris Tye + Chris Wood at Glee Club B'ham May 8th...     Brum Radio benefit: Layla Tutt + Lee Endres + He Is A Pegasus at 6/8 Kafe B'ham May 13th...     Nightingales at Flapper and Firkin B'ham May 14th...     Laura Mvula at O2 Institute B'ham May 21st...     Rhino and the Ranters at the Blue Piano B'ham May 29th...     

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.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Call Me Unique: Better make time... to grab that chance.

The big break? How and why? Let me count the ways...

At MoFo a few years back; she's on the big stage at MoJazz this year
Let's say you're a struggling artist. You cover a lot of music areas. You have a following of sorts. Being good and distinctive (they don't always go hand in hand), putting yourself out there, gives you a chance of building a small local following. But just to get to there means effort, sweat and often a bit of heartbreak.

But how do you push on from there? How do you get to that point where the buzz is big enough to bring the big media operators sniffing around?

Mostly, the web muddies the waters while appearing to offer clarity. But sometimes you catch a break.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Miles Hunt. Straight outta Stourbridge to a world tour.

Friendly Company! The Stuffies are coming to yours

 Miles and Erica Nockalls - from The Wonder Stuff pledge page  
Like a thousand other towns across the country, developers and lousy town planning have ripped the guts out of Stourbridge. The town is a tangle of road improvements and pompous corporate new-build. It's totally out of step with the charming, human scale of the unprofitable parts left behind.

I head along old streets of small terraced houses, down a clearly ancient pathway behind a church. I fetch up in a quiet neighbourhood boozer, one of several I'd passed. No piped music, no fruit machines, no Sky Sports; instead, a large affable dog and some excellent ale. 

And Miles Hunt of The Wonder Stuff. 

Sunday, 28 February 2016

The BBC's shiny digital future. Still waiting.

Elephants? Pah. There's a digital dinosaur in the room. 

I was at the BBC Mailbox offices in Birmingham last week. They've redone the entrance. You can now check out hot BBC WM studio action as you walk up to the reception desk. This is a good thing. I always like to see real live radio, made in Birmingham.

The sad coffee outlet and gift shop have gone. Ironically, there's now a life-size Peaky Blinders backdrop. You can take selfies! With Cillian Murphy and his gang! Well, it's nice to see Peaky Blinders stuff in Brum - that's a first too. 

Next to it is an area showcasing new digital developments. It's manned by pleasant guides who walk you though the new toys. I had a play while I waited. And then I asked questions. Well, I do that.