Sunday, 31 May 2015

Analogue Tales: James Summerfield and Darren Cannan

Last year, just as summer shaded into autumn, I spoke with James Summerfield, whose latest project is surfacing right now; then it was in the throes of assembly, recording and aligning. Analogue Tales: Sounds From Arden is an extraordinary work, taking the words and ideas of local poet Darren Cannan, and setting it to a lush musical background, supplied by James. It's released on the estimable local label Commercially Inviable. James sings on most of the tracks, but others are voiced by the likes of Paul Murphy, Ranking Roger, Catherine O'Flynn, Mike Gayle, James' nan Marjorie, and myself. 

When you listen to it, the obvious, screaming question is – why don't people do this more often? It's amazing.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

I used to go to Barbarellas

People and bands and music and sticky carpet make places 

I've been working up a few posts for Time Out Brum of late. Some of them are on local music history, including this one on lost venues. It's had a big reaction, and I'm now looking at more stories that have come my way. Thank you! And keep them coming. 

We've lost a lot of venues over the years. It's sad to seem them go, of course; hardest on the people who made a particular place what it was. There was a great book published last year about JBs in Dudley. There's memories aplenty scattered around on websites. But there really isn't enough about one place I spent lots of time either DJing or sticking to the carpet: the primo 70s and 80s Rock venue in Birmingham... Barbarellas.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Don't you point that thing at me #7 : Sam Frank Wood

Catch that moment... sometimes under exacting circumstances

St Vincent at Birmingham Institute  
There's a pic on facebook about how crazy musicians are to put their five grand instruments into a car worth maybe five hundred, and drive a hundred miles for a fifty quid gig. They're not alone - decent cameras don't come cheap, and yet we often see two or three snappers at gigs, all with seriously costly kit, looking to capture something worthwhile - which they might not even get paid for. At least I can bash this stuff out on a three hundred quid laptop, or do my radio stuff on kit which hardly cost me anything. But musos and snappers? Mostly, they fork out a lot. But they clearly love it all, the same way all the people in a local scene do.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Open Mic nights - a most variable feast. You should go.

The historic Fiddle and Bone and the very new Dark Horse: two ways to do Open Mic. Why not try both?

It's around eight o'clock on a sunny Tuesday evening on Sheepcote Street in Birmingham centre. Things are warming up as Richard Heath sets up the PA for his new Open Mic night at the Fiddle and Bone

This is a Very Good Thing. Music is back at the Fiddle and Bone. The place was set up first and foremost as a music venue. Now it's back after over a decade, hosting live music the way it used to. We've regained a city centre music venue. 

Its closure followed an unpleasant episode of noise complaints from newly arrived flat-dwellers. Noise complaints still dog local venues; efforts to get the city to grasp this nettle have met with silence and evasion. The Fiddle and Bone's case caused particular rancour, and dark rumours still circulate.But that was then...

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Rumbles in the radio jungle

Tricky times for pop radio

If you look at what's playing at radio, you'll mostly find bleakly repetitive fare. 

Further down this post, I've got an analysis of five stations (three West Midlands analogue, two national digital), with their current most-played artists, taken from the Compare My Radio site. Everyone is playing youth diva Taylor Swift. Four of the five are playing Sam Smith. 

It's a typical pattern; has been for years. Most commercial stations go for safe, reliable and familiar. It's the McDonalds way: familiarity and repetition. Punters know what to expect; the brand is crystal-clear. 

But the web came along and overturned the applecart. And now, news that came out last week could have huge implications for the industry.