birmingham

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.

DEAD! / The Flapper, Birmingham | 31st of January

DEAD! have slowly established themselves as one of the biggest and most exciting underground bands in UK. They brought a stellar line up of similar underground talent with them, when they played The Flapper on January 31st.

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.

Miss Vincent / Subside Bar, Birmingham | 30th of November

After a year that has seen their star rise to meteoric new heights, Miss Vincent were looking to close out their 2017 in style when they brought their brand of dark post punk music to Subside Bar Birmingham.

Mindstep opened the night by playing an acoustic set, they had lost two members due to injuries. With powerful vocals and catchy guitars, Mindstep left the crowd in awe of this powerful performance. Closing their set with Peach, a song wrote about just having fun playing video games. The track summed up Mindstep perfectly, they are a band who play music they enjoy and that is fun to listen too. For all fans of current Paramore, I highly recommend this band.

Harker were next up, the band quickly informed the fans this was their first time ever playing Birmingham and seemed extremely grateful to have been given the chance to be on the bill. With fast guitars and catchy choruses, Harker held nothing back in their attempt to win over the crowd.  The bands pop punk sound made use of powerful drums and guitars hooks that made you want to jump around, and with a vocalist whose voice was familiar enough to fit the pop punk genre expectations, but still unique enough to stand out from the plethora of other pop punk singers.

Soon after headline act Miss Vincent exploded onto the stage. The band quickly made it apparent why they are considered one of the hottest up and coming bands in the British music scene. The bands dark lyrics and old school punk rock sound make them akin to bands such as Alkaline trio and Creeper. Miss Vincent however does not seek to imitate these bands, and bring jaw dropping melodies to their sound along with anthemic choruses. The bands tight set featured the perfect balance between older hits such as You Can’t Spell Blame Without Me and Disparate Desperate, alongside tracks off their latest album ‘Somewhere Else.’ Miss Vincent were clearly not holding back, and gave their all in every song. This became most apparent when lead singer Alex Marshall took a few seconds between songs just to get his breath back. The overwhelming dedication to playing the best show the band physically could did not go unappreciated, and saw Miss Vincent receive thunderous applause off the small Birmingham crowd after every song.

This show really highlighted the talent that is hidden in Britain’s underground music scene. Although this scene may not remain underground for much longer due to the undeniable talent of acts like Miss Vincent. For all those looking for some exciting new post punk music after the end of acts such as My Chemical Romance and Fearless Vampire Killers and the lack of new music and tours from the likes of Alkaline Trio. I highly recommend Miss Vincent as the band that can and will fill that hole in your life.

Soeur / Hare and Hounds, Birmingham / 30th of November

Soeur brought their own specific brand of poppy grunge to Hare and Hounds last night, playing a short but sweet set, that left the crowd waiting for a little bit more. The band raced through their set list, announcing their last song just as the audience started loosening up. But with songs that pack a lot of punch in a short space of time, Soeur were able to show off everything they had.

Support came from local band Mutes, another grunge-influenced band with pop-based sensibilities. They engaged with the crowd quickly and started off the night with lo-fi sounds mixed with a flamboyant stage presence, setting the stage for more contrasting styles from Soeur. The Bristol-based three-piece mentioned they had just recorded a session at Maida Vale studios, and it’s clear that this is a band possibly on the brink of bigger things. Their live act gives the feeling that there’s something more to come, and the band are controlled and precise in their playing, letting the raw sounds they make contrast with the slick performances.

Soeur are a band of contrasts, and they know how to build tension in a song, holding back until it’s time to let go; with standout highlights being the exciting climax of singles No Fire and Pass Out. The songs start off sweet and delicate before climbing into loud, grungy choruses, and energised the crowd enough that a mini mosh pit started in the intimate Venue 2 of Hare and Hounds. The band strip their sound back to the basics, with drummer, James Collins, providing composed and quick beats that never let up throughout the set, but always remained consistently precise. The sound still remained quite raw and grungy despite the controlled beats alongside slick and sharp guitar riffs. They say they write pop songs with a grunge-heavy sound, and this can be heard not just in the lyrics, but in the vocals of the two frontwomen, Anya Pulver and Tina Maynard.

The vocals were the highlight of the show, even though slight technical problems meant Maynard’s soft voice was occasionally not picked up by her mic. Pulver and Maynard bring another contrast to the band with their opposing vocal styles. Maynard’s voice has light and airy qualities, while Pulver’s is deeper and emphasises the raw edge in their songs. The vocals stand out especially when the two sing together, at times varying between harmonies, duets and even singing in rounds.

The track Slow Days shows off their vocal pairing, and was my favourite song of the night. All of the elements Soeur are inspired by can be found in the track, and their live performance added to the atmospheric feel of the song. Pulver and Maynard’s vocals combine to create an almost folky sound, and their harmonies provide an exciting layer to the stripped back grunge they play. Come to see a great British rock band, but stay to hear them bring something unique to a classic sound.

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

Holy Moly & the Crackers / Hare and Hounds, Birmingham | 9th of November

On the 9th of November the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham was lifted up by a high-energy performance from Holy Moly & the Crackers. The Newcastle-based six-piece brought their unique mix of genres to the intimate venue, and had the audience dancing within seconds of the first song. This enthusiasm from the crowd didn’t let up throughout the entire. By the last song audience participation led to everyone chanting the chorus to the rousing single ‘Mary’.

First up though, support came from Rosie T, a singer-songwriter performing melodic lullabies accompanied by two violinists for extra orchestration. The songs were emotive with Rosie’s voice echoing throughout the room to a mellow, gathering crowd. Next up were The Tin Pigeons, performing as a duo instead of the original four-piece. With two guitars, one electric, one acoustic, and nice harmonies, the band performed their folk-inspired ballads to a more active audience as the night went on. Towards the end of their set, the crowd had loosened up and the duo finished on a high note. Which set the stage for the raucous set Holy Moly and the Crackers would bring.

Holy Moly & the Crackers have described themselves as “gypsy-folk-rock”, but that’s barely scratching the surface of what they can do. With the violin and the accordion adding a traditionally folky sound, the rock vibes coming from the drums, bass and guitar, and a trumpet thrown into the mix, their live performance is like a wild fusion of genres and musical influences. Violinist Ruth Patterson, and trumpeter/frontman Conrad Bird shared lead vocals. With Patterson’s soulful vocals clashing comfortably with Bird’s raspy voice and energetic persona. Every part of this band brings rampant enthusiasm, adding something completely different to their sound. It is testament to their talent and strength as a group that it all comes together effortlessly on stage.

They danced at a rapid, energetic pace through songs from their new album Salem, and older singles but no two songs sounded the same, and the set even included a Christmas themed tune. The highlights of the night came when the band performed instrumentals with such enthusiasm that the crowd were chanting, shouting and stomping their feet, first to the sounds of a Russian folk song, and later to the vibrant beats of a Jewish wedding song. These departures from what is usually expected of rock gig sound like they should have been out of place, but for Holy Moly this seems like the norm. This only escalated the liveliness of the gig and the passion of the crowd.

Holy Moly stirred up interest among music fans, especially because of these exuberant live shows and they fully lived up to the hype. I’ve never seen a band engage with their audience so easily and so soon into the set. I’ve also never seen an audience so willing to dance around to songs they didn’t know, plus some unexpected traditional Russian music. All in all, definitely worth the trip to one of their many gigs on the UK tour.

 

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

The Dead XIII, In Dante’s Eclipse and City of Ashes / Subside, Birmingham | 26th of October

The Dead XIII brought The Bloodlines Tour to Subside bar in Birmingham.

The show was opened by local act In Dante’s Eclipse who took advantage of playing on home soil and brought a large crowd of passionate fans, who headbanged and screamed along to their traditional heavy metal songs. This instantly made In Dante’s Eclipse seem like a headline act instead of an opening support. The band later announced this was their bassist’s last show, however you would not have guessed it as he ran around the stage and yelled choruses with their singer. The only issue was how small the stage was however The Dead XIII had pre-planned for this and brought two metal crates for the band to stand on placed just off the stage allowing the band to move around and engage with the crowd more than if these crates where missing. However, In Dante’s Eclipse came up against a much greater issue. As their set progressed the sound team were incredibly sub-par and so saw the band often requesting instruments be turned up or down, but this did not always happen as the sound guy was also serving customers at the bar. These issues between the sound team and bands did not stop when main support City Of Ashes took the stage. Within two songs the singer was having to yell over to the sound guy to actually make it so he could hear himself in his ear. This made the band often miss out on chances to interact with the crowd due to these constant requests to the sound guy. City Of Ashes did not let this ruin their set; the band put all the energy they could into every song and even managed to get the crowd to sing with them. This was even more remarkable due to City Of Ashes being a much softer band than the rest on the bill, but yet still being able to win over a crowd who obviously preferred the heavier styles.

Finally, The Dead XIII took the stage. The band instantly made the venue explode roaring through tracks such as Frostbite and Lay Siege To Hell. The band perfectly combined their old and new material and always had members stood on the metal crates leaning into the crowd while they tore through solos or played breakdowns; making you forget you were stood in a small bar in Birmingham and instead made you feel as though you were watching a legendary metal act playing an arena show. The Dead XIII did not avoid the recurring problems with the sound. Lead singer Kurt Blackshard often asked for the sound guy to sort out the reverb on his mic which in many cases stopped the crowd hearing what the singer was saying to them. This sometimes lead to the band relying on long term fans to scream during songs and missing out on having new fans participate like you would expect at a usual The Dead XIII show.  In summary this show was limited by the venue its self however, each band that played pushed themselves to a whole new level as to paper over these cracks and create a memorable night.

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