Words by Sophie Hack / Pics by Connor Pope
On the weekend summer turned up fashionably late, The Night Owl in Digbeth became home to a long, hot, American summer; walls dripping with psych and funk beats from Birmingham and beyond. Part musician, part magician, Brian Lightning was the MVP of the night, honing both crafts perfectly at their single launch party on 8 September.
With four acts on the bill, the night was stacked along with the expectations. Everyone who stepped foot into the Digbeth club knew what they were getting themselves into.
In fact, within the first five minutes of arriving I overheard a conversation in the toilets about Ed Quigley’s act Brian Lightning: “He does magic. Sometimes on stage, sometimes in the smoking area.” A solid strapline will come from the least expected places.
Ocean Ivy kicked off the evening, the first support band and regulars at The Night Owl’s psych night, Kaleidoscope. With keyboard led melodies and low and slow croons that flowed naturally together, the five-piece perfectly warmed up an already hot night through their hazy guitars and rock-meets soul sound.
The second act on the bill, Sancho Panza, brought a mix of psych, tropical-sounding funk, and Americana. As if a psych band took a two-week break to Palm Beach, their instrumental tracks radiated a surf-y heat perfect for the sudden September heatwave. The slower songs in the Nottingham band’s set breezed through a Mac Demarco-like sound with shakes of garage thrown in for good measure.
With a pedal to the floor ferocity, third act Tupenny Bunters took the crowd through a tailspin. Trashy drums met unstoppable keys in this baroque-pop and garage inspired dynamic duo.
The pair flitted between each other’s instruments, drums and keys, creating a blur that spuns you into the 1960s. Dave and Fi Dulake turned The Night Owl into a fairground throughout their set, contorting chords and cascading drums that made it impossible not to take to the dance floor, especially during their final song – a B52’s-esque sound, amping the night up ready for the main event.
The last time I saw Brian Lightning was in a cinema; their retro, glam-rock set backlit by scenes from romantic movies such as Pretty in Pink, the perfect companion to Brian’s glittering tunes echoing from a charity-shop bought organ. No matter where Brian Lightning is, this movie-like quality follows; a full sound that swells thanks to complimentary backing singers, drums, guitar, keys, and saxophone, which comes together especially in fan favourite single ‘Pilot’.
Denim adorned and fishnets high, Brian Lightning had everyone’s gaze as they swept through their single-release show. As if their music wasn’t captivating enough, Brian made sure to leave room for magic show intervals: crying Tic-Tacs, pouring sand out of their hand seemingly from nowhere, and literally turning water into (very cheap looking) wine.
A quick pit-stop for some poetry as Brian sank behind a velvet curtain, transforming into Frankie S. Gasspipe. An alter-ego with a mean streak and the namesake for the new funky single, Frankie has a chip on his shoulder and a car to steal.
Mutton chops and a snarl makes up the look of this ex-convict, out on early release and here to steal Brian Lightning’s thunder. With a sound similar to alternative funk-rock band Warmduscher tinged with a retro New York cop TV show, this new single, ‘Frankie’, is the soundtrack to the surprise September sunsets as summer speeds off into the distance.
The whole ethos of Brian Lightning is uniquely made. From the striking stuck-on eyebrows and beauty mark that has become their emblem, to the cross-continent characters and cherry-red cheap wine, this hand-made charm only adds to Brian’s magnetism. Using scraps of fabric to hide behind and transform mid-set is a bold move, but what emerges from that velvet curtain is nothing short of some star quality Birmingham is blessed to be home to.
Brian Lightning is a theatrical headliner with off-the-wall alter egos that will transport you away from the littered, sticky UK streets.
They will propel you into to a high-speed getaway from a bank heist with new single ‘Frankie’ or transport you to a dreamy evening inside a dimly-lit diner with ‘Pilot’. As the credits roll on Brian Lightning’s headline show at The Night Own and ‘Frankie’ gets its official release, everyone is already eagerly waiting for a sequel.
For more on Brian Lightening follow them on Instagram at www.instagram.com/brianlightninginc or click here to listen to them on Spotify
For more from The Night Owl visit www.birmingham.thenightowl.club