REPORT: UK acts up at SXSW

The Vaccines

As UK artists dominate the top spots on the US Billboard album charts, with Adele, Marsha Ambrosius and Mumford & Sons at positions 1,2 & 3 respectively, one of the world’s biggest and most influential music conferences comes to a close in Texas.

South By South West, or SXSW as it is more commonly known, attracted over 20,000 people to it’s 25th anniversary event last month, with delegates attending five days of seminars, industry panel sessions, presentations, receptions and the all important showcase performances from a global portfolio of musicians.

‘SXSW Music appeals to people from every aspect of the music industry,’ say the conference organisers, ‘deals get done while parties are had, and showcases bring together some of the most dynamic musical talent the world has to offer.’

But despite hundreds of acts vying for attention, the big British buzz continued at SXSW with a spectrum of UK artists making noise on stage and off. London lass Ellie Goulding set the folk fraternity alight, whilst Hackney based rapper Professor Green proved there was life after The Beats, Birmingham born Mike Skinner’s somewhat eponymous, and now defunct, record label.

Elsewhere in Austin, York based hard/metalcore quintet Asking Alexandria made a memorable conference debut, but the ultimate guitar heroes were The Vaccines, continuing their meteoric climb up the music industry ladder.

Since signing to Columbia at the end of last year, The Vaccines’ melodic Indie Rock has already been cited as a ‘game changer’ by Clash Magazine, whilst drawing tentative Punk comparisons to The Ramones elsewhere. The London based band released their debut album, ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines’, on March 14th, under the watchful eyes of an often divided music industry.

Jez Collins, originator of the Birmingham Popular Music Archive –, was at SXSW for the first time this year. ‘The crowds were insane,’ says Collins, ‘imagine 20,000 people trying to get inside 90 venues to see 2,500 bands. There was a lot of queuing involved.’

But he did manage to see some home grown Bristish talent worth waiting in line for? ‘Gallops were great (Electro Rock, Wales), as were The Joy Formidable (Indie Rock, Wales). Plus, Fever Fever (Punk Rock, England), a young Punk trio from Norwich. One to look out for.’

NEWS: Late licence extenstion for Bull’s Head, Moseley

Bull's Head, Moseley - courtesy of Leftfoot

Since being taken over by new management four years ago, the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath has seen everyone from Gilles Peterson and Norman Jay, to Roy Ayres and UB40 play in its 200 capacity main room.  Now the same owners have committed to ‘develop local artists and events’ at their sister venue, The Bull’s Head in Moseley village, after being granted an extension to their licensing hours.

‘We’ve had such a success with the Hare (and Hounds), and built such a strong events calendar, we wanted a place where smaller events could grow and develop’, says owner and events director Adam Regan. ‘Our upstairs room at The Bull’s Head has capacity for 80 people, this is a manageable space for events and promoters who want to try something new.’

Adam Regan took over The Bull’s Head in 2006 and transformed it from a nicotine stained drinking den into smart, contemporary venue. Although with limited event space, and a large central bar that devours the downstairs capacity, making it sustainable has not always been easy.

‘Last year was tough,’ says Regan, ‘we are committed to Moseley but without the Hare (and Hounds) it would’ve been even tougher to stay open. Our events calendar is important to us, it allows us to offer something no one else can, so we need to nurture our artists and promoters.’

Currently promoting at The Bull’s Head are local collectives Freestyle, Habit, Jam Jah, We Are One and Apt, bringing a kaleidoscope of music from reggae and hip hop, to tech house and breaks. Under the extended licence plans are being made to develop the events calendar, including alternative cabaret and a regular night to find new live talent.

The Bull’s Head recently secured a license allowing entertainment until 12:00am from Sundays to Thursdays, a 30min extension on their previous trading hours.

The venue was also granted a 2am curfew on all bank holidays, including Sundays and national holidays.

‘We kept losing people to another local pub which was already licensed to serve until midnight,’ says Regan, ‘people would leave before the night had finished to get a last drink elsewhere. We wanted to be able to give our promoters a more competitive venue.’

The Bull’s Head ran into selected objections during its licence application from residents concerned about noise pollution.  The Moseley Society represented their concerns at the hearing, after meeting with all parties involved to discuss the issues directly. Despite some lingering contention from individuals, a Moseley Society representative said the organisation ‘are grateful to his (Regan’s) offer to respond to any complaints in the future, and to keep in touch with residents.’

The Bull’s Head is also undergoing refurbishment, set for completion by mid April.

DJs playing this month include Ashley Beedle on Apr 1st, Guy Carlos on Apr 22nd and Martin Red on Apr 30th. For further details visit

NEWS: O2 Indie icon showcases; Primal Scream & The Levellers

Bobby Gillespie, Primal Scream - photo by Carsten Windhorst

Marking over 20 years of the Independent music scene, Primal Scream and The Levellers are coming to Birmingham this March, playing special retrospective album showcases at the O2 Academy.

In the late eighties/early nineties, independently financed and run record labels such as Creation, Factory, Beggars Banquet and Deconstruction, were churning out now ‘legendary artists’ including New Order, Oasis, Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses. Now, 20 years after their original release, two of the most significant nineties bands will be playing their signature albums live on the O2 stage.

On March 15th Primal Scream come together for a one off performance of Screamadelica, their 1991 Andrew Weatherall produced classic. Featuring many seminal tracks, including Movin’ On Up, Come Together, Higher Than The Sun, Loaded and Damaged, Screamadelica was Primal Scream’s third studio album and the beginning of their widespread success.

Then on March 17th, The Leveller’s perform their revered 2nd album, Levelling The Land. A monster hit when released in 1991, reaching No14 on the British charts, tracks like ‘One Way’ and ‘Fifteen Years’ became anthems of the UK travelling and new wave ‘hippie’ communities, with the band’s communal approach to royalties becoming almost as publicised as their music.

The commercial success of albums such as Screamadelica and Levelling The Land, and the reflected success of other early nineties Indie artists, marked a significant shift away from the high profile major label releases, towards the grass roots support of the Dance and Rock scenes. The term ‘Indie’ was introduced to represent the independently controlled record labels of the early nineties, many of which have now been bought out by established major labels, but has become synonymous with a defined style and culture.

For more information on the Screamadelica and Levelling The Land showcase gigs go to

NEWS: Birmingham cuts arts funding by 17%

Flyover Show II - 2009

2011 will see significant change for Birmingham based music organisations previously supported by the government. In a recent arts funding review, 50% of Birmingham City Council’s top ten to cut hold a specific focus on music, with a further three high bracket organisations spanning both music and dance.

High profile institutions such as SAMPAD, The Drum, Birmingham Opera Company and Ex-Cathedra will lose between 9-18% of their annual funding, whilst Performances Birmingham, the registered charity that manages and runs both the Symphony Hall and Town Hall, is the worst hit with a 23% revoke.

In total the city’s music economy will lose approximately £1¼million in annual support funding. Whitehall has set BCC a yearly target of £2million for the wider arts sector.

Cabinet Minister for Leisure, Sport & Culture, Councillor Martin Mullaney, said ”Arts organizations, large and small, are important to Birmingham, they add to the economy and the whole cultural life. I am passionate about the arts scene, I didn’t come to politics to reduce funding, but we’ve had to make a 17% reduction in our funding to the arts in line with the national reductions. We’ve been as pragmatic as possible, discussing with the arts organisations how we can make the squeeze so that no organisations collapse.”

Andrew Jowett, Director of Town Hall & Symphony Hall, said ”All arts organisations are having to share the pain of cuts, and Town Hall-Symphony Hall is no exception. Over the last 20 years Birmingham City Council’s support has established an international reputation for these two iconic concert halls. The future will not be easy, and we are doubly vulnerable to these cuts because unlike many arts organisations we receive no Arts Council funding and Birmingham City Council is therefore our sole source of public funding. But we will rise to the challenges ahead by seeking a balance between cost-saving and artistic excellence that enables us to continue presenting the most diverse and exciting range of concerts outside London.”

Several smaller music organisations have also been effected, having their funding fully withdrawn and put back into a ‘Project Pot’. Although BCC has secured a 50% transition fund for lower level recipients, organisations including Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Birmingham Jazz and Sound It Out will have to reapply for all previously granted bursaries in 2012.

Whilst much of the city’s arts community worries about the damage made by the funding cuts, a strong contingent welcome a change in the dissemination of government money. Commercial organisations that have previously been entirely self sufficient will now be eligible to apply for grants from the newly established ‘Project Pot’. BCC has added an extra £15,000 to the ‘Project Pot’ to encourage new applicants.

Councillor Mullany reports ‘complaints’ from ‘many organisations’ who feel excluded from the BCC’s arts funding agenda, and claims the new allocation procedure ‘opens up funding to all the smaller arts organisations of Birmingham, not just the few.’

The 17% cut in arts funding is less than the previously proposed 30% reduction initially laid down by Whitehall. Birmingham still invests nearly £8million per annum back into it’s arts sector, over double that of Greater Manchester, and has pledged to help secure ‘private sponsorship’ and ‘link them up with companies that are fitting with their image.’ This ‘strategic spending’ or private investment is hoped to allow BCC to ‘hold our funding at this year’s level’ during the next two years.

MUSIC: Brum’s musical yuletide

Birmingham Christmas Market

As Christmas and New Year’s Eve loom like a spectre, the Birmingham entertainment bun fight begins once again. Venues and promoters scrap for enough acorns to survive until spring, artists and DJs carry wince inducing price tags, whilst the city tries to decide which over priced ticket to regret buying. Grumble, moan, moan. Don’t you just love Christmas.

To help merry your way, the Birmingham Review did a last minute shop for all Birmingham’s Yuletide music. We cast out our nets and this is the cream of what came back, the flotsam and jetsam you’ll have to find on your own. All ticket prices are at standard rate without booking fee, unless stated otherwise:

The Rainbow

It’s all about FACE on Adderley Street this Christmas. The Crimbo knees up is on Dec 18th with LA’s Lee Foss at the techno helm. Then its hands in pockets until Boxing Day when from a land down under, Sonny Fodera, comes to town with some good ol’ jackin’ house cheer. New Year’s Eve sees the mighty Hardcore Til’ I Die meet Hardcore Heaven for The Winter Gathering, with Darren Styles, Hixxy, Brisk and Joey Riot joined by basket of others.

Info/tickets at: /

NYE Tickets: The Winter Gathering – standard £31.50 / Early bird & VIP available

You tell me:  FACE is Brum’s best mate because we’re not just about great music but also a buzzin’ social vibe which we’re proud of.”

Hare & Hounds

Christmas Eve sees the slightly barnpot 8 piece Misty’s Big Adventure play upstairs, whilst the rest of the venue opens up to a tinsel tastic free party with local DJs and the Soul Food Project. On Boxing Day Jock Lee and Justin Bond will be giving some Teenage Kicks for a mere handful of sheckles (£3), allowing just enough time to recover for a Chicks Dig Jerks, Reverb and Habit extravaganza on New Year’s Eve. All for a tenner, gaw’d bless us everyone.

Info/tickets at: /

NYE Tickets: £10 advance

You tell me: It’s all about the suburbs at Christmas. No finer places than Moseley & Kings Heath.”

The Jam House – Sensibly sabbatical over Christmas, The Jam House puts all its eggs in a New Year’s Eve basket for a sumptuous serving of live music from Dino Baptiste and The Subterraneans. Other festive treats include Ben Drummond’s Acoustic Sessions on Dec 28th and Basil Gabbidion with Reggae Rocks’ Winter Chill on 29th.

Info/Tickets at:

NYE Tickets: £35 entry, £100 entry & food

You tell me: “We believe we are the best live music venue in the city offering “the best Christmas party ever!”

Factory Club

Dec 11th – Fatman D’s Birthday Bash with Nicky Blackmarket (£18.50)

Boxing Day – Xmas Cracker with Mc Bassman, Nutcracka & Escape (£10)

NYE – One Nation & Raveology present The Ultimate Countdown, with Friction, Hazard, Hype, & Danny Byrd (£30)

HMV Institute

Xmas Eve – The Cult Club, 9 rooms from Indie to Dubstep and back round to Reggae (£4)

Boxing Day – Electric City presents Sven Vath, extended set (£22)

NYE – Eclectricity New Year’s Extravaganzazazazaaa, Chase & Status (DJ set), Fake Blood, Caspa, Goldie and more (Early bird £22)


Dec 18th – Jools Holland & his Rythym and Blues Orchestra (£32.50)

Dec 21st – Bootleg Beatles (£23.50)

Dec 23rd – Jakes & Elwood’s Christmas Party (£25)

Symphony Hall

Xmas Eve – Christmas Classics (£12-31.50)

Dec 28th – Four Seasons by candlelight (£12-31.50)

Dec 28th – John Williams Greatest Movie Music (£12-35.50)

NYE – Evening Gala (£17.50-43.50)

02 Academy

Dec 23rd – Kinn, False Pretence, Casino Zone & The Great Western (£5)

NYE – Propaganda’s New Year’s Eve Carnival (£10)

Godskitchen @ Air

Dec 18th – Eddie Halliwell, Aly & Fila, Paul Thomas (£16.50)

NYE – Gareth Emery, Marcel Woods, Tall Paul, Alistair Whitehead (£25)

Gatecrasher, Broad Street

Boxing Day – Trevor Nelson (£14)

NYE – Mark Ronson (DJ Set), Sidney Samson, Oliver Lang (£35)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.