Fullshore / The Academy 3, Birmingham | 23rd of March

The Academy 3 in Birmingham hosted a plethora of bands in Friday night, five to be precise. An alternative rock night in the form of Mosbey, Surrge, The Dead Agents, Underground Empire and the headliners Fullshore. A crowd of families and friends gathered for the evening but every set lacked an atmosphere from the crowd, some of the bands sounded great with Fullshore taking home the bacon in terms of sound and energy on stage.

Apologies, I Have None / Asylum, Birmingham | 15th of December

An Icy Friday night in Hockley provided the gloomy setting for ultra-melancholic punk rockers, Apologies, I Have None as they put on a last-minute show for their tour with fuzzy alt-rock duo, Kamikaze Girls.

Courage My Love / The Flapper, Birmingham | 21st of November

Canadian synth rockers, Courage My Love headline Birmingham for the first time, bringing a sound that is not quite associated with a venue like the basement of The Flapper, but rather a sound that would be better suited for the opening slot of Paramore in the arena across the canal. The line-up tonight includes alt-rockers The Prophets and the eclectic rock outfit, Chapter and Verse.

First to take to the stage are three-piece alt-rockers The Prophets, who reveal that they will be using that name for only a few more days as they will become Everything Aside. The female fronted band have some nice melodies, although quite repetitive, and quite jarring breakdowns that seem to be quite erratic and all over place at times. They are talented and confident, bringing energy to a dead room. They will gain fans from this tour, but the rest of the bands on the bill seem to be a cut above in terms of song writing.

The main support for the evening come in the form of chaotic alt rockers, Chapter and Verse. As their set begins, the band burst with energy with melodic vocals and interesting instrumentals that are comparable to likes of Press To Meco or Arcane Roots. The frontman, Josh, has a great voice that when coupled with the Drummer’s harmonies adds layers to their sound and is quite impressive at times. Although Chapter and Verse have big choruses and regular breakdowns, they finish their set with a monumental throw down that forced me to restrain myself from punching the nearest person directly in the face.

Finally, the headline act, Courage My Love take to the stage and begin with Animal Heart taken from their latest album ‘Synesthesia’ which gets nearly every song played during the set. Instantly visual and audio don’t quite match up, the three piece are seen to be playing guitar, bass and drums and, although the latter two are heard quite well, the guitar is drowned out by the synth heavy backing track that is present throughout the entire set. I feel that that this was a missed opportunity. The band sounded great, but sounded so similar to the record that it became quite a disengaging experience in a venue like The Flapper. Alternatively, they could have toned down the synth in favour of a heavier guitar which would have made for an authentic sound. Instead, I couldn’t help feeling like I was listening to the album through the PA system.

What was interesting about the configuration of the band was that throughout the set and in between songs, lead singer/guitarist, Mercedes Arn-Horn would swap the guitar for keyboard while bassist, Brandon would drop the bass for a guitar which only made for a more synthetic sound (pun intended).

Regardless the band continue through ‘Synesthesia’ rattling off hits: Walls, Stereo, and Need Someone which has a feel that could be heard on the latest Paramore record. They only delve into their back catalogue twice in the form of Kerosene and Dark Wood, Dark Water which have slightly less polished sound and shows that potential of a less synth-y set.

The crowd aren’t particularly energetic; opting for sing along instead of jumping around with the band. I think the vibe of room can be summed up with the set-up for the encore. The band leave the stage after Dark Wood, Dark Water leaving drummer, Phoenix Arn-Horn left on the microphone behind her kit saying “We could play a few more if you make some noise! I’m sure they’ll come back on.” This is met with a tepid response and Mercedes, along with Brandon, come back on stage: resulting in the most authentic, real-sounding song of the night, Drowning which had a happy medium of synth and guitar then finally Tough Love.

This band is very popular across the pond and they have evolved their sound from the pop-punk that would be associated with a basement show. However, Courage My Love have sound that would be more in line with a PVRIS or a Paramore. This is more appropriate in a bigger room where the synth can be better appreciated with added layers of instruments.

 

Setlist:

Animal Heart

Walls

Kerosene

Skin and Bone

Love Hurts

Two Headed Monster

Never Gonna Change

Need Someone

Dirt

???

Stereo

The Year I Disappeared

Dark Wood, Dark Water

ENCORE

Drowning

Tough Love

Ducking Punches / The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham | 18th of November

Saturday night at Birmingham’s Sunflower Lounge, the place was buzzing upstairs with the people inside getting ready a night of partying. However, downstairs hosted an intimate gig with some the best acoustic acts touring at the moment in the form of Neil Brophy, We Bless This Mess (Nelson Graf Reis) and headline act Ducking Punches (Dan Allen).

The night started off with an empty room and local supports, quintet Mixtape Saints, who play the only full band performance of the night. They had a very unique sound with heavy nods to the likes of: Against Me!, The Menzingers, the Gaslight Anthem. This is a refreshing welcome to the scene as many bands in the area either fall into the pop punk or hardcore scene but this relatively young band are venturing for a alternative rock vibe laced with American punk. The room had filled up for their penultimate song in the shape of a cover by The Replacements which also encapsulates their sound.

The opening act for the tour comes on next, one man folk band Neil Brophy. A pub singer with some depth to his songs, but mainly a set made up of some socio-political themes along with some personal experiences. Summed in the songs One Man Folk Band and Record Collector, Brophy seemed to have an air of confidence and even graced Birmingham with a harmonica solo. An intimate set that felt perfect to set up the next act, We Bless This Mess, a more emotional acoustic act all the way from Portugal.

Lead Singer of We Bless This Mess, Nelson, had a more pensive and raw sound than Brophy. Nelson occasionally leaned back from the microphone to really let loose with his singing. An instantly likable character, Nelson kept the show feeling intimate and not losing the small crowd instead he had an anxious feel which only kept his sings interesting while having banter with the crowd. Darling was the standout track, Nelson cuts the guitar at the end and screams away from the microphone ‘And my breath is something conscious, That fires from inside’.

Finally, Dan Allen takes to stage in the act that the crowd are most familiar with, The Ducking Punches. The first songs of the set, Secrets and Cursed Luck kicks in the crowd are instantly hit with influences from Frank Turner and Billy Bragg. The guitar tech of the former, Allen brings a level of experience both technical and musical which is shown and heard in the fan favourite It’s Been a Bad Few Weeks. Allen has this raw and emotional quality to his singing which can only be fueled by cigarettes and beer (which you will know if you are an avid fan) and this really adds to the set.

Allen does touch upon some important issues during his set both in his songs and chatting to crowd in between songs. The song Wolf discusses sexual harassment at live shows, and the disgraceful behaviour of predators who hide behind ‘alcohol and drugs’. And quite a haunting reprise to finish with ‘they’ll be back for more’. The Ducking Punches also address suicide in Six Years which is the penultimate song of the night. The song is preluded by Allen pointing to some obvious problems amongst men and the effect of depression. Last song come in the form of Big Brown Pills From Lynn and has a great singalong feel with the crowd getting more involved than ever and ultimately ends with Allen in the crowd, singing amongst friends. A punk rock feel to a folk inspired set.

 

Set List:
Secrets
Cursed Luck
It’s Been A Bad Few Weeks
Sobriety
Smoking Spot
Wolf
Cowards
Six Years
Big Brown Pills From Lynn

Weezer / O2 Academy, Birmingham | 27th of October

On the day that Weezer release their eleventh studio album, ‘Pacific Daydream’, they play Birmingham’s O2 Academy and no one is there to see their take on synth-y ultra-pop; instead they put on a timeless show that has everyone hooked on nostalgic hits.

Weezer take to the stage and open with the riff from 2016’s California Kids only to kick into an album track from their quintessential ‘Blue Album’ – The World Has Turned and Left Me Here which is met with energy from the crowd. The next song, The Good Life, produces the first mosh pit of the night. Rivers was unhappy with setup for the first songs of the night but from here on in they sounded fantastic.

Moving onto the full version of California Kids and it’s difficult to separate this song by two decades worth of writing, recording and touring, it slotted into the set so nicely. Back to Blue for the next three songs, showing how much quality is embedded into the set: No One Else, the nursery rhyme feel of In The Garage, and the huge and energetic Surf Wax America. There’s not only hits from the ‘Blue Album’ but ‘Pinkerton’s’ huge melancholic sound in the form of El Scorcho and The Good Life

The ‘White Album’ has its own showcase with Rivers changing costume from his iconic jacket shirt and college tie to sport a crown and robe for King Of The World where he does mess up the lyrics for the second chorus but the crowd don’t seem to notice. Thank God For Girls has Rivers quick verses before a huge chorus that gets everyone screaming the title.

Pork and Beans ultra-grunge vibe goes down a treat with quiet and catchy verses before the distortion kicks in. The Birmingham crowd went wild sparking mosh pits and copious amounts of bounce. After what was one of the highlights of the set, the band turned to the new material in the form of second single from ‘Pacific Daydream’, Happy Hour, which is met with much quieter sing-alongs and a fraction of the energy. A real bummer after the ‘Red Album’ classic.

A short synth infused interlude that left much to be desired and the band pull a banger from their back catalogue, Undone – The Sweater Song. The crowd are back on side as the song chugs along in grunge harmony. The band then leave the stage while Cuomo performs a short rendition of I Took a Pill in Ibiza by Mike Posner which didn’t fit the demographic of the crowd but enjoyed by some.

The band play through Feel Like Summer, which is received to better effect from the crowd than the other material from ‘Pacific Daydream’, but fans are waiting for the big hits to roll in. The rest of set is the perfect run of songs that never dipped in energy or volume from the crowd. Heavy low-end guitars and Cuomo’s high-end vocal play together in harmony for Hash Pipe while the huge almost football-chant like chorus of Beverley Hills gets fans hyped for the finale.

Grunge classic, Say It Ain’t So, has the crowd yelling the lyrics in Cuomo’s face as he yells back. The feeling I get from the first Weezer performance that I have seen, this band love what they do! The solos to the sing-alongs they seem to never tire throughout matching the enthusiasm of the crowd. Short interval before the one song encore consisting of Buddy Holly which gets every ounce of energy from the fans. ‘Oo-we-oo’ rings around the venue for the final chorus while Cuomo is on stage with his microphone in one hand and swinging his jacket around his head with the other. When the song ends the crowd erupts and band take to front of the stage to thank and bow in front the crowd. A very special end to what was a great show, a show that was filled with timeless hits that ooze nostalgia; performed by a band whose careers spans twenty-five years but haven’t aged a bit.

Setlist:

The World Has Turned and Left Me Here

The Good Life

California Kids

No One Else

In the Garage

Surf Wax America

El Scorcho

My Name Is Jonas

King of the World

Thank God for Girls

Pork and Beans

Happy Hour

A Ballad for the Fallen Soldier

Undone – The Sweater Song

I Took a Pill in Ibiza

(Mike Posner cover) (Short)

Island in the Sun

Feels Like Summer

Hash Pipe

Beverly Hills

Say It Ain’t So

Encore:

Buddy Holly

show